Constitutional Issues in Newport News Criminal Cases

The following is taken from an interview with a Newport News criminal defense lawyer as they discuss constitutional issues that may arise in Virginia. If you believe your constitutaional rights may have been violated, call and schedule a consultation today.

Constitutional issues that arise in Newport News criminal cases usually have to do with the Fourth Amendment which is issues with search and seizure. These types of issues come up when law enforcement officers obtain evidence and there is a question of whether that evidence was obtained legally.

The reason this is so important is because even if the evidence is the smoking gun for a case, if the officers did not properly obtain it, through a legal search and a legal seizure, then the evidence is not able to be admitted and cannot be used against the defendant.

Obviously, this can make a huge difference in some cases. And it’s incredibly important for a defendant’s rights to be protected. Not only for the result of their own particular case, but because these types of issues affect everyone on a much broader scale.

Fourth Amendment Rights

The Fourth Amendment is there to protect all citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. And it’s crucial to ensure that these rights are protected in each and every court case.

Issues with search and seizure can arise in any case that involves evidence that was collected by law enforcement. For example, if an officer has reason to believe that someone is doing something illegal in their home, the officer cannot just enter the home to search for evidence. The officer has to either obtain consent from the person living there, or the officer has to have enough probable cause to take the evidence to a magistrate to obtain a search warrant that would then allow the officer to search the home for the suspected evidence. If the officer decided to go ahead and enter the home without doing either of these things, and subsequently found evidence of the suspected illegal activity, then that evidence would have been obtained illegally. Illegally obtained evidence is not able to be admitted as evidence in court, which means the officer will not be able to use the evidence against the person charged. These issues are very common in drug cases, particularly when it comes to drugs that were found in someone’s vehicle.

If it were allowed to admit evidence that was obtained illegally in a case, then people could be convicted for charges that they otherwise would have had dismissed. This means that officers would have no incentives to follow the rules and obtain evidence properly. And the whole system would just fall apart.

For example, let’s say someone is pulled over for speeding, and the officer decides on a whim to search the vehicle, and does not obtain the consent of the driver, nor does the officer have any reasonable articulable suspicion that there is anything unlawful in the vehicle. Let’s say in this scenario that the officer finds an entire trunk full of marijuana, cocaine and heroin, and charges the driver not only with speeding, but also arrests him for multiple felonies. Because this was an illegal search, the evidence in the trunk is not supposed to be admissible in court.

There is a lot of case law demonstrating what constitutes a lawful search and seizure and what situations do not, and the reason this is important is because we do not want officers to have the authority to search anyone’s vehicle or home just because they feel like it. The constitution gives people the right to be free of unlawful searches and seizures and it is in the interest of justice to ensure this continues to be the case. There are very specific rules set in place for searches and seizures for this reason. These cases are very common, and judges in Newport News definitely pay attention to how evidence was obtained, and will not hesitate to dismiss a case where protocol was not properly followed.