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Understanding the Fourth Amendment

Every amendment in the United States Constitution is necessary, but when the police have arrested you for a crime, few are as critical as the Fourth Amendment. This amendment states that United States citizens have protections against unlawful searches and seizures. The amendment prevents the police from simply entering your home to find evidence without going through the proper channels first. In the event the police have acquired evidence unlawfully, then the court would throw it out. 

When preparing any kind of criminal defense, it is essential to look at the process by which the cops acquired evidence. Ultimately, the Fourth Amendment exists to protect your privacy, and many cases throughout history have brought this amendment into play. 

What does it protect against?

The language in the Fourth Amendment protects against "unreasonable" searches and seizures. This gives police some leeway, and it means the cops cannot search your property without a valid reason. This includes your home, your car and your person when walking down the street. 

When does the Fourth Amendment not protect you?

The police are capable of acquiring a search warrant if they believe there is probable cause an area contains evidence of a crime. For example, the cops ordinarily cannot search your car after pulling you over for a traffic offense. However, if the cops discover drugs in the passenger seat, then they could search your vehicle without a warrant because it is reasonable for them to assume a crime has occurred. 

What happens when unlawful evidence goes to court?

Courts operate under the exclusionary rule. If the court finds the police committed an unlawful search, then all evidence from that search cannot factor into consideration for the final verdict. The purpose of this rule is to deter police from committing such unlawful searches. This could delve into the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine, which states that any additional evidence derived from the initial evidence also needs to go out. 

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