Search and Seizure Laws in Washington
The Fourth Amendment acts as a safeguard to protect your right against unreasonable search and seizures conducted by law enforcement. This fundamental protection plays a critical role in criminal defense cases, ensuring that evidence obtained unlawfully cannot be used against the accused. In the state of Washington, the Fourth Amendment holds particular significance, as the state upholds its own interpretation and implementation of search and seizure laws. Understanding your rights under the Fourth Amendment and Search and Seizure Laws in Washington is crucial to protecting yourself from unlawful search and seizure. If you feel that your Fourth Amendment rights are being violated, retaining an experienced and knowledgeable lawyer is an imperative decision as they will help you navigate these types of situations due to their complexity. The Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer has a team of attorneys that have both the knowledge and experience to help protect your rights and defend you against any charges you may face due your rights being violated.
Probable Cause and Warrants
The Fourth Amendment states, “The right 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, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” In Washington, as in the rest of the United States, this constitutional provision ensures that individuals are protected from arbitrary invasions of privacy by the government.
To safeguard this right, law enforcement officers in Washington, like their counterparts across the nation, must demonstrate probable cause before conducting a search or seizure. Probable cause refers to the reasonable belief that a crime has been committed due to evidence that a law enforcement officer has observed or gathered. The evidence obtained is then used to request a search warrant, and is presented to a judge who will examine the evidence and determine whether or not the evidence presented establishes probable cause.
Exigent Circumstances: An exception to the rule of probable cause is known as “exigent circumstances.” An example of this exception is if a reasonable suspicion that waiting for a warrant would lead to the loss of evidence or endanger lives. If an exigent circumstance arises, the officer will then have the right to conduct a search without a warrant.
Reasonable Expectation of Privacy: The Fourth Amendment protects individuals’ reasonable expectation of privacy, both in their physical surroundings and in their personal property. In Washington, the courts have recognized that individuals have a heightened expectation of privacy in their homes. Therefore, searches of a person’s home generally require a warrant unless there is a recognized exception. In the state of Washington, the courts define the Fourth Amendment as being upheld in places where one would reasonably expect privacy such as home, private property, or a vehicle. Spaces where privacy would be expected require a warrant to be searched. Observations and searches may be conducted by an officer without a warrant in public places.
Plain View Rule: An officer may seize any contraband or evidence without a warrant if it is in plain view or is discovered inadvertently. If an officer is in your house and he finds evidence of another crime being committed, he can seize that evidence even though it wasn’t part of the original warrant.
Suppression of Illegally Obtained Evidence
When evidence is obtained in violation of an individual’s Fourth Amendment rights, it may be deemed “fruit of the poisonous tree,” making it inadmissible to the court. This principle, known as the exclusionary rule, acts as a deterrent against unlawful searches and seizures. If evidence is suppressed, it cannot be used against the accused during trial.
In Washington, the exclusionary rule plays a crucial role in criminal defense cases. If it is determined that the evidence was obtained through an unlawful search or seizure, defense attorneys can file a motion to suppress the evidence. The state must then prove to the court that the evidence was obtained through a warrant or justified through an exception such as exigent circumstances. If the court grants the motion and suppresses the evidence, it cannot be used against the accused during trial, significantly weakening the prosecution’s case.
How Can We Help You?
If you believe that your Fourth Amendment rights have been violated, hiring a lawyer is an important step to take in order to protect your rights, freedom, and future. The Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer has a number of lawyers that are ready to work with you, and help you navigate situations such as these. Additionally, if the unlawful search leads to you being charged, our attorney will assist you in a court of law as well.
Don’t hesitate, call the Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer at (360) 334-6277 today to obtain your free consultation