Your Right to Not Be Searched is Sacred — Protect Your Fourth Amendment Right

From the creation of our Democracy, it was one of the most fundamental and important concepts that the government cannot search your person or effects only in the most limited circumstances.  Citizens have the right to refuse the government to search their persons, homes, vehicles, and property unless certain requirements are met.  In Indiana, this standard is established by the Indiana Constitution, Article I, Section 11, and is called “reasonable suspicion“.  The Federal Constitutional requirement created by the Fourth Amendment in the Bill of Rights (which is more commonly known) is called “probable cause“.  Although some cases suggest that “reasonable suspicion” may be a slightly higher standard than the federal standard, they are often used and treated interchangeably.

The bottom line is–you have the right not to have yourself or your property searched.  You can even reasonably resist where you reasonably believe that a search is illegal, that is, where law enforcement lacks sufficient reasonable suspicion to conduct the search.  (This does not include the use of deadly force.)

One hot topic in this area of the law is a former common law exception to the probable cause requirement called, “search incident to arrest”.  These searches, according to a case entitled New York v. Belton and Thornton v. United States, 541 U.S. 615 (2004), were permissible without probable cause where the suspect was arrested.  The exception in this case was drawn to be so wide that there did not need to be any connection between the crime the suspect was arrested for and the probable cause for the search.  In other words, when a person was arrested for any reason whatsoever, his vehicle could be searched for any and all contraband, and whatever was discovered could be used in court against the suspect/defendant.  This rule was premised on “officer safety” and the nature of the mobility of automobiles, which was highly criticized by Justice Scalia in Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. 332 (2009).

Arizona v. Gant involved a defendant who was arrested and charged with driving on a suspended driver’s license.  Police arrested Gant in a friend’s yard after he had parked his vehicle and was walking away.  Gant and all other suspects on the scene were then secured in police patrol cars.  The officers then searched Gant’s vehicle and found a weapon and a bag of cocaine.  Gant was charged with possession for the found effects.

In Gant, the United States Supreme Court ruled that 1) Belton does not permit a search incident to arrest after the arrestee has been secured, and 2) in order to conduct a lawful search incident to arrest, an officer must have a reasonable belief that evidence of the offense of arrest might be found in the vehicle.  In the particular case, Gant was arrested for driving while suspended.  So, the Court held that the search was illegal because it wasn’t related to the reason for his arrest.

If you feel that you have been the subject of an illegal search, the criminal defense attorneys at SFT Lawyers can help!  CALL FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.  (219) 841-5683.