The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution—and Article II, Section 7, of the Colorado Constitution—gives citizens certain rights, most notably, the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement. If you find yourself charged with a crime based either in part or wholly on evidence obtained through means not in accordance with Colorado search and seizure laws, an experienced defense attorney will file a motion to have the evidence suppressed, and any evidence seized as a result of the illegal search and seizure will not be allowed to be used. Once the evidence against you has disappeared, your attorney could have your charges thrown out altogether, or, at the very least, reduced to lesser charges.
The Fourth Amendment protects you from illegal searches and seizures by federal law enforcement agencies (ICE or FBI), as well as to state and local law enforcement searches. Law enforcement are not allowed to search your person or your property without a valid search warrant from a judge, or when the search falls within one of the limited number of exceptions recognized by Colorado courts and federal courts. So, what makes a search warrant valid, allowing law enforcement to search you or your vehicle or home? The search warrant must be based on probable cause, must be legally executed by a federal judge or Colorado judge, must have written affirmation or oath as support, and must clearly describe the place to be searched, or the person or thing to be seized as accurately as possible.
Conversely, there are exceptions to the warrant requirement, such as:
- You voluntarily consented to the search.
- The search occurred at an international border.
- The police are in the midst of what is known as a “stop and frisk”—a pat down of outer clothing of a person suspected of criminal behavior to search for a weapon.
- The police are searching for weapons which could be used against them during a lawful arrest.
- A Colorado “protective sweep of the area is underway by the police following a lawful arrest, as a method of searching for dangers.
- Your vehicle is being searched under the “automobile exception” rule because the police have probable cause to believe the vehicle contains evidence of a crime.
- The situation is an emergency—a search is crucial to prevent physical harm, locate a suspect who is fleeing, or prevent property damage.
- The police seen an incriminating item in plain view while conducting an otherwise lawful search.
Many people believe if they lawfully have a concealed weapon permit, the police are not allowed to disarm them, however this is not true. Those with a Colorado concealed weapon permit can be temporarily disarmed during a lawful stop if the police officer has an articulable suspicion of criminal activity, however unless you are lawfully placed under arrest, the police officer must return your weapon.
Further Reading: The Differences Between Harassment and Assault
What Creates Probable Cause?
In order for probable cause to exist, there must be enough facts in the case to convince a reasonable person a search is warranted. In other words, there must be enough facts to convince that same reasonable person that evidence of a criminal activity, or contraband exists. The totality of the circumstances determines whether there is probable cause for a search warrant. The facts which support the circumstances must be reduced to writing, establishing a warrant and supporting affidavit. A judge can also expand the “source” of probable cause, by taking evidence from two separate search warrants, thus supporting probable cause for a single search warrant. If you should find yourself being subjected to an illegal search and seizure, it is extremely important that you contact an experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney as soon as possible, to ensure your rights are protected.
Contact Our Experienced Boulder Criminal Defense Lawyers
If you or someone you love has been arrested and charged with a crime – it is important to know your rights. You need an experienced and aggressive Boulder criminal defense lawyer in your corner from the moment you are arrested. Contact the Boulder criminal defense lawyers at Steven Louth Law Offices today for a free consultation and review of your case. Call us at (303) 422-2297 to start building a solid defense against these serious criminal charges.