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Fourth Amendment Violations and Criminal Defense: What You Should Know

If you are arrested for a criminal offense in Texas and charged with that crime, you should begin working with an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to fight the charges and to avoid a conviction. While there may be multiple defense strategies available to you based on the specific facts of your case and the particular criminal charges you are facing, presenting proof of a Fourth Amendment violation may result in the charges against you begin dropped. The following are some key things to know about Fourth Amendment violations and criminal defense strategies in Texas.

Fourth Amendment Prevents Against Unreasonable Search and Seizure

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects individuals against unreasonable government searches and seizures, which includes unreasonable searches and seizures conducted by law enforcement officials in Texas. The text of the Amendment notes that the right of the people to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no warrants should be issued without probable cause that describe the place to be searched, and the individual or items to be taken.

In order to conduct a search, a law enforcement officer must have probable cause. Without it, the search may be “unreasonable” and may constitute a violation of the Fourth Amendment. If a Fourth Amendment violation led to the evidence the prosecution has against you, it is likely that your Texas criminal defense attorney will be able to have that evidence excluded from your case, and the charges against you may be dropped.

Probable Cause and Warrants

While the Fourth Amendment specifically refers to the need for probable cause in order for a law enforcement officer to obtain a warrant to search a person’s home or property, it is important to know that a law enforcement officer does not have to have a warrant in order to conduct a lawful search. Generally speaking, in order to stop or temporarily detain a person, a law enforcement officer must have reasonable suspicion. In order to conduct a search, or to obtain a warrant to conduct a search, there must be probable cause. Whether a warrantless search is lawful will depend upon the location of the search and circumstances.

In general, law enforcement officers almost always need to have a warrant to conduct a lawful search inside your home unless one of the following exceptions exists:

  • You gave consent to the search;
  • The search was incident to a lawful arrest;
  • Exigent circumstances existed; or
  • Unlawful items were in plain view.

Cars and persons are a bit different. In situations where a law enforcement officer has probable cause, a warrant may not be necessary to conduct a search of your vehicle or of your person (i.e., your clothing, your bag, and so forth). Yet if the officer does not have probable cause, any evidence obtained from a search of your vehicle or person was likely obtained illegally and cannot be used against you in a criminal case.

Contact Our Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers

Are you facing criminal charges? Do you need assistance with your defense? Our experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys can assist you. Contact The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today for help.