It is important to understand how the police gather evidence in criminal cases. If you are facing serious charges, the way that any evidence that may be used against you was obtained may have a significant impact on your case and your defense options.
Every case is unique, of course. But the following are three common questions about how evidence is obtained that apply to many cases. Consider them carefully to see whether they might apply in your situation.
Can the police look in your trash?
Generally, when you dispose of your trash in a manner that makes it accessible to the public – such as placing it at the curb for collection – you typically lose your expectation of privacy in that trash. As a result, law enforcement agencies may be allowed to search through your trash without a warrant. They cannot do so on your property, but only after the trash itself leaves that property.
Can they enter your home without your consent?
Police officers usually cannot go inside your house without either your consent or a valid legal justification. The Fourth Amendment states that citizens should not be subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures. It establishes the requirement for law enforcement officers to first use probable cause to get a warrant – in most situations.
That said, there are some notable exceptions to this rule. Police may enter your home without a warrant if there are exigent circumstances that require immediate action to prevent harm to individuals, protect evidence from destruction or address other emergency situations. Another example is if police are in hot pursuit of a suspect who enters a house. In many cases, they may enter the home without a warrant to apprehend the suspect.
Do you have to answer questions?
In many cases, you have the right to remain silent. There is no obligation to respond to questions posed by the police or any other law enforcement officers in most situations. This right is covered by the Fifth Amendment, which says you do not have to incriminate yourself. However, in some situations, you may be required to provide identification if asked by law enforcement. This is common during a traffic stop, for instance, when a motorist is asked for a driver’s license.
Do you believe that the police may have violated your rights and gathered illegal evidence? If so, it is important to look into your criminal defense options, which may include having some evidence excluded from trial.