Police and prosecutors build their cases through prearrest investigations. The search and seizure of evidence is often a large part of those investigations, especially in drug manufacturing or trafficking cases.
Criminal investigations can be frightening to endure. Many even think they must cooperate with police to avoid suspicion. This is not always the case. It is important to know your rights in a prearrest investigation, especially in the event of a police search.
The Fourth Amendment
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution gives police the right to search your property if they have probable cause. In most cases, they must also have a warrant. If the police do not have a warrant, you have the right to deny a search.
While the Fourth Amendment gives the police the right to pursue an investigation, it also protects your civil rights and privacy. Knowing the rights that the amendment provides you with is the first step to protecting yourself during an investigation.
Know what the police can do
If they have both probable cause and a warrant, then police may search your property. However, they must follow specific protocol. They must:
- Show you the warrant if you ask, which is advised
- Respect your property and the occupants
You also have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the event of a search. This generally means that the police can only search relevant areas specified in the search warrant. There are certain cases that could lead to an extended search, but usually the search warrant restricts a police search as much as it allows it.
A breach of protocol could mean any evidence collected during the search is inadmissible in the case against you. You can review Florida’s search and seizure laws to better understand police procedures. A skilled and strategic defense attorney can also help protect your rights throughout police investigations.
Even more importantly, know what the police cannot do
In any prearrest investigation, the police cannot:
- Conduct an illegal search
- Request a search warrant without probable cause
- Search your person without probable cause
Understanding and exercising your rights can help avoid serious charges and protect your future.