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You Have a Fourth Amendment Right Against Unreasonable Search and Seizure - Use It!

Its an all too common scenario.  You are stopped by police or they come knocking on your door.  They ask to search your vehicle or house.  Your first inclination is to say no.  But they threaten you with vague criminal actions when you tell them to get a warrant.  They say "we can get a warrant and the prosecutor won't be happy if we have to do it that way."  Or they might say "if you don't let us search you will go to jail when we find something."  The reason they are threatening you is because they know if you don't consent they have no evidence against you.

The United States Constitution affords all people a right against unreasonable search and seizure.  How has the Fourth Amendment been interpreted to protect this right?  The case law is clear - if the police don't have a search warrant or probable cause they can't search.  There are exceptions to this rule.  The most commonly used exception is the consent to search exception.  If a person verbally or in writing allows the police to search there is no need for a warrant.  And if they do so they have just waived a very valuable protection.  I hear stories all the time from clients about granting consent to search.  Almost all of them know there is something illegal in the area the police want to search.  But they grant consent anyways.  I don't know if they think the police won't find whatever they are looking for or if its something else.  But the police will find what they are looking for.  

It is a huge mistake to grant police consent to search.  Make them get a warrant.  Most of the time the police are purely bluffing about being able to obtain a search warrant.  A court requires police give them enough facts to justify issuance of a search warrant.  Pure suspicion is not enough.  If a person declines to give consent and is arrested for an offense it opens a door for the defense attorney to attempt to suppress all evidence.  In such a case, if the motion is granted, the person walks free since the prosecution has no evidence.  

Use your Fourth Amendment right - Don't Consent to a Search!

Brian L. Polinske
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