Fourth Amendment Rights and Criminal Defense in the US

by PhilBalbo on June 13, 2012

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Below is a US criminal law blog post written by Phil Balbo. For more information on the 4th amendment and what they could mean for an investigation involving you, please read more on Wikipedia. You can also visit our fairfax criminal lawyer site for more information or to schedule a free consultation.

The Supreme Court’s review of Bailey v. United States, set to define law enforcement’s ability to detain a suspect while waiting to carry out a search warrant, involves an issue on which state and federal courts are, at this point, split; a division that has piqued the interest of defense lawyers everywhere. At issue in Bailey is whether or not police have the right to detain and hold a suspect leaving the location—home, office, etc.—where a search warrant is to be executed until said search has been concluded. This question touches on the 1981 Supreme Court in Michigan v. Summers. The Bailey case comes out of the 2nd Circuit.

Virginia Criminal Defense Attorneys Watching Supreme Court

In his jury trial, Bailey was convicted of possession with intent to distribute at least five grams of cocaine base, possession of a firearm by a felon, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Per the language of the decision almost one year ago, the appellate court was asked to determine if the District Court wrongfully denied the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained during his detention because the search and seizure of the defendant’s person and property were in violation of his 4th Amendments rights. The appellate court held that the defendant’s detention during his search was lawful according to Michigan v. Summers.

In Michigan v. Summers, the court held 6-3 that under the 4th Amendment, with a search warrant based on probable cause, there is an implied authority to detain the occupants of the searched premises until the search is concluded. In the Summers case, law enforcement was about to execute a legal search warrant when Summers exited the premises. Officers asked for permission to enter, detaining Summers while the residence was searched. Narcotics were discovered in the home and Summers was arrested, at which time he was searched and more drugs were discovered. At trial, Summers argued that the drugs found on his person were the product of an illegal search in violation of his 4th Amendment rights.

The Supreme Court held that the 4th Amendment was not violated, and that while the detention of Summers was likely a “seizure” under the 4th Amendment, and perhaps itself not support by probable cause, the primary cause for the intrusion—as well as a legal search warrant—allowed for an exception to the ‘probable cause’ requirement.

Fourth Amendment Rights and Criminal Defense

• 4th Amendment is designed to protect citizen privacy
• Reasonable search and seizures are, however, reasonable
• When judge issues search warrant, police may lawfully search:
o a persons home, office, apartment, boat, barn, trash cans, storage lockers, plane, RV, Dumpsters, etc.
• Search and seizure also permitted without warrant if circumstances justify an immediate search

Contact a Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with a crime in Virginia, and have questions about your rights under the 4th Amendment, including your right to be free of warrantless and illegal search and seizures, please contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. This post has been provided by Price Benowitz, LLP.

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