By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
One of the best weapons in defending many cases is the exclusionary rule. That rule prevents illegally attained evidence from being used by the prosecution during trial. The exclusionary rule is the citizens legal protection remedy from illegal police acts.
Isn’t it a Bit Much to Say the Police Acted Illegally?
Think of the word ‘illegal’ in terms of a penalty during a football game such as ‘illegal procedure.’ The word ‘illegal’ has a much lighter connotation when we know it’s just a 5 yard penalty for a player moving the wrong direction before the snap.
Calling a search or particular police action ‘illegal’ is really no different. As the accused, you’re merely saying there was a foul committed without regard to wether it was intentional or severe. But the rules are the rules and everyone has to play by them.
Illegal Searches Can’t be Very Common, Right?
They’re more common than you think. You have to remember civil rights cases from the 1960’s and 1970’s still have a large imprint on search and seizure law. The courts are uncomfortable with traffic stops and/or searches based on little more than hunches because those were rightly exposed as profiling. Though today’s police may profile teenagers or people who have an alternative appearance – there isn’t much of a difference under the law. Profiling is profiling.
You also have to remember police in targeting certain groups are often aggressive in their approach. Police need articulable fact to justify traffic stops and continued roadside detentions. It’s very common to see extremely thin and subjective reasoning for keeping someone detained at a routine traffic stop – nervousness, the time of day/ night, or even labeling the area of the stop as ‘high crime’ with little or no proof this is the case. Courts have repeatedly said these types of justifications are akin to multiplying zeros when it comes to articulable facts. Bad stops frequently get thrown out triggering the exclusionary rule.
Again, police know they are fighting crime and doing great things by keeping drugs, guns, and drunk drivers off the streets. They will often push and test the rules for reasons they think are justified.
The end result may be that often they have mis-stepped and ‘fouled’ the person they arrested.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice about any situation you should contact an attorney directly. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. Contacting the attorney through this blog is not privileged and communications are not confidential.