What Happens If My Rights Were Violated When The Police Pulled Me Over?
In the instance where the police violated the rights of the defendant, that can have an effect on your case in terms of allowing your attorney to conduct what we call a suppression hearing. There are a couple of different circumstances under which the police may have violated the law in arresting you, the first is whether or not, in the circumstance that you are arrested, they did not have sufficient reasonable suspicion to make the stop in the first place. The Fourth amendment requires that in order for a police officer to detain someone, we are not talking about an arrest, just a detention, in order to do an investigation to see if there is sufficient cause for arrest they have to have a minimum amount of evidence, what is known as reasonable suspicion.
They have to have an articulable basis that an offense was being committed, meaning they have to be able to say why they think a crime is occurring or has occurred. This typically occurs when the police see you commit a traffic violation or offense. In that circumstance, after the police have either observed the offense or have had a report of the offense, they would find the car in question and would pull the car over. If the reason that they pulled the person over for was not, in fact, an offense under the law, and sometime police believe that a traffic infraction is an offense when in fact they are not covered by the code or ordinance, in that circumstance, the police would be said not to have reasonable suspicion to make the stop in the first place and there is a doctrine that comes into play that governs everything that comes after that. It’s not just the stop that we would be asking the judge to throw out because if the stop is tainted then everything that comes after it is also tainted.
By tainted, I am referring specifically to a criminal law doctrine called fruit of the poisonous tree. What that means is that if the original arrest was wrong in its inception then everything that subsequently comes out of that is also tainted by it, by the original bad stop, and cannot be used at a trial. So if there is a problem even as far back as reasonable suspicion for the original stop, that will go down the road and be able to allow the judge to throw out the results of a field sobriety test if we are talking about a DWI stop or in the instance of a drug offense, we are talking about the very drugs themselves. The drugs themselves and any subsequent testing of those drugs and the arrest of the individual would all be able to be thrown out as a result of an original bad reasonable suspicion.
In addition to that, in order to make an arrest, the officers have to have probable cause, which is a higher standard, not just an articulable basis that an offense had occurred but more than that, saying that there was a preponderance of the evidence, that the evidence tilted in favor of indicating that an offense had actually occurred here, that weighing all the evidence together, it indicated after further investigation that there was in fact an offense. Even an officer’s belief that that is the case may still not be sufficient if the judge finds that there were not, in fact, sufficient facts at the time that the officer had at their disposal, in order to justify probable cause for an arrest.
Oftentimes, in a drug offense case, we are not talking about the original arrest being for the drug offense:, after there is an original arrest for another offense, the police will search the car, either as a result of alleging that they have some particularized probable cause in order to do a search of the vehicle or because they say they are conducting an inventory search so that they can impound the car and make sure that all the valuables that are in the car will be returned to the owner after they get the car out of impound. Even in this latter circumstance that we see drugs being found in the inventory search, even though the offense that the arrest was made for was not a drug offense that taint or fruit of the poisonous tree would still apply to the inventory search down the road if it was found that there was not sufficient probable cause in order to make the stop originally.
These are all protections that are had under the Fourth amendment and the bases upon which officer’s evidence may be thrown out by a judge. However, in Texas, there is additionally the Code of Criminal Procedure §38.23 which allows any evidence to be disregarded by the finder of fact, the judge or the jury if they found that the collecting of that evidence violated the laws of the state of Texas, the constitution of the state of Texas or the constitution of the United States. That provides an additional basis upon which your attorney may be able to get evidence excluded even if it doesn’t fall under specifically something that is covered by the fourth amendment. These are the primary ways in which an illegal arrest, search, or seizure may be able to be used it in order to have some of the evidence thrown out in your case.
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