The United States and Michigan Constitutions provide all citizens with the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. For a long time, courts have interpreted this language to require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before searching a person’s belongings. However, the language provides no remedy when a police officer violates a citizen’s rights. This is where the exclusionary rule comes into play.
The Michigan exclusionary rule is a judicially created rule that precludes the prosecution from using evidence that was obtained in violation of a person’s rights. Thus, if police conduct an illegal search of a person, any evidence that was found during that search cannot be used in a criminal prosecution. However, over the years, courts have created several exceptions to the warrant requirement. Among the most common is that an officer can conduct a warrantless search of a person or their belongings if they have probable cause to believe that person committed a crime. Officers are also allowed to perform a limited pat-down of a person’s outer clothing if they have a reasonable suspicion that the person was involved in criminal activity.
Of course, an officer cannot rely on their gut instincts when engaging in the reasonable-suspicion analysis. Instead, a police officer must articulate specific reasons why they believe the subject of their search was committing a crime. For example, if a police officer claims to witness a hand-to-hand drug transaction, the officer may stop both parties to the alleged transaction based on a reasonable suspicion of drug dealing. However, it may not be enough to support the stop if the officer testified that he only saw the men’s’ hands coming together and could not see small items that looked like drugs or money.
When someone is arrested, and they believe that their arrest was the product of an illegal search, they can file a motion to suppress the suspect evidence. A motion to suppress is argued before a case goes to trial and, if successful, may eliminate the need for a trial. In a motion to suppress, the court will hear testimony from the law enforcement officers involved in the stop to determine if there was reasonable suspicion or probable cause to conduct the pat-down or search. A skilled criminal defense attorney can cross-examine the officer to expose any misconceptions, biases, exaggerations, or mistakes. If the court determines that the officers’ lack justification for the stop, or that the officer’s story was not credible, the court can suppress any evidence that stemmed from the illegal search.
Have You Been Arrested for a Michigan Crime?
If you have recently been arrested for a Michigan drug crime, or any other type of possessory offense, contact Michigan Defense Law. Attorney Paul J. Tafelski, the founder of Michigan Defense Law, is a veteran criminal defense attorney with extensive experience handling all types of cases, including Michigan gun cases, drug trafficking, and street sales. To learn more about how Attorney Tafelski can help you defend against the charges you are facing, call 248-451-2200 to schedule your free consultation today.