Saturday, February 6, 2010

Assert and Protect your Constitutional Rights

The Fourth Amendment to the Bill of Rights of our United States Constitution clearly states that the rights of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The Fifth Amendment to the Bill of Rights of our United States Constitution clearly states that no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor shall he be deprived of life, liberty or property, without the due process of law.

In essence, the Fourth and Fifth Amendments are the bedrock by which all persons within the United States of America are protected from overly intrusive law enforcement activities. If law enforcement violates these constitutional protections all evidence obtained, or otherwise discovered, by way of the violation has the potential of being suppressed in a court of law. A savvy Seattle criminal defense attorney will most assuredly make efforts to keep any “tainted” evidence out of all court proceedings by filing a Suppression Brief. If successful, the Seattle criminal defense lawyer can seriously reduce the amount of incriminating evidence the government has in its arsenal, and in certain circumstances can even cause criminal allegations to be dismissed.

The following are some fundamental rules to protect your rights. First, although law enforcement must obtain a warrant before it can conduct a privacy-invading search, anything “in plain view” from a non-intrusive vantage point is subject to confiscation, and can even be the basis for the issuance of a warrant. Second, if law enforcement asks for permission to search, it is likely because there is not enough evidence to establish a basis for the issuance of a warrant. If you “consent” to a search, law enforcement may search and even seize items without further authorization, and if they find “contraband” you will most assuredly be arrested. Conversely, if you do not consent to a search, law enforcement must go through the hassle of applying for a warrant, which can only be issued with sufficient probable cause supported by an oath or affirmation by law enforcement. It is also important to understand that refusing to consent does not in and of itself provide law enforcement with the legal grounds to obtain a warrant or even to detain you.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, there are exceptions to the search warrant requirement which sometimes authorizes law enforcement to search an area without a warrant or even consent. With that said, it is abundantly important to remember that it is never a good idea to consent to a search, or talk with law enforcement without a Seattle criminal defense attorney present. If you find yourself in a situation in which law enforcement asks to search you, an area belonging to you, or an area which you are authorized to control, you should: (1) refuse the request, (2) immediately assert your right to remain silent, and (3) contact a Seattle criminal defense lawyer.

Unless you are being “detained” by law enforcement, you have the right to terminate an encounter with law enforcement. Sometimes it is extremely difficult to ascertain if the contact is a “detention”. Law enforcement is extremely versed in blurring the lines between an actual detention and a person’s freedom to terminate a law enforcement encounter. If you cannot determine your “freedom of movement”, it is okay to ask, “Am I under arrest or detained; am I free to leave.” Law enforcement is then bound to clarify your status. If you are free to leave, you should: (1) assert your right to remain silent, (2) terminate the contact, and (3) immediately contact a Seattle criminal defense attorney. Conversely, if you are not free to leave, you should: (1) assert your right to remain silent, and (2) immediately request to speak to a Seattle criminal defense lawyer.

When asserting your Constitutional Rights always be polite; there is no reason, or benefit, to being rude, even if you feel that law enforcement is harassing you. Remain calm, cool and collected. Always be cognizant that law enforcement personnel are trained professionals, and use certain strategic tactics to get people to waive their Constitutional Rights. Don’t be fooled, contact a skilled Seattle criminal defense attorney.

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