The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects people in New Mexico and throughout the country from unlawful search and seizure. The government may not unreasonably intrude on a person’s privacy, including his or her home, business or other property. Also, when a police officer detains an individual, it is legally considered a type of “seizure.”
Probable cause versus search warrant
In most cases, a police officer must show proof of a valid search warrant before entering a person’s home or vehicle or property to conduct a search. There are exceptions to the rule, however, which is where the term “probable cause” comes in. If a police officer can demonstrate that he or she had “probable cause” to conduct a search without a warrant, the search or any seizures that follow might be considered lawful. An example of this would be if a police officer makes a traffic stop and sees syringes or other drug paraphernalia lying on the floor in the vehicle.
Invoking Fourth Amendment Rights
A person does not have to consent to a search during a traffic stop or if a police officer has knocked on his or her front door at home. The individual may state that he or she does not consent to the search. If the officer has no probable cause to conduct a search and has not produced a valid warrant, the individual may challenge the case on a constitutional basis if he or she winds up being arrested and charged with a crime.
Search and seizure laws are complex
It is always best to request legal representation regarding search and seizure issues if anyone in New Mexico or elsewhere is facing criminal charges. An experienced criminal defense attorney is well-versed in such laws and can determine if an individual’s constitutional rights were violated before, during or after an arrest. Such an attorney also knows what to do to submit a challenge against evidence in court or to request that a case be dismissed.