There are numerous laws, including portions of the Constitution, that limit the authority of law enforcement professionals when they interact with members of the public. Even when an officer suspects someone of criminal activity, they still need to respect that individual’s rights.
While police officers may want to search anyone that they can, they either need a lawful reason to do so or permission from the person affected. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures of their persons and property. In other words, police officers can’t just go through someone’s home or their vehicle whenever they want. There are specific rules that determine when a search is legal, but police officers don’t always follow those rules.
Improper searches can affect a trial
Although some people believe that the ends justify the means, that is not the stance that the justice system in the United States takes on police misconduct and evidence for criminal proceedings. When officers violate the law or someone’s civil rights, they often damage their chances of bringing a successful charge against someone.
Evidence gathered illegally is often subject to challenges during criminal trials. Defense attorneys will invoke the exclusionary rule and ask a judge to prevent a prosecutor from presenting certain evidence to the courts based on the illegal search that occurred. Provided that a judge agrees with someone’s assertion that a police officer’s behavior violated someone’s rights, any evidence obtained by those questionable searches could get thrown out, thus weakening the prosecution’s case.
Those who know their rights have an easier asserting them
People often make major mistakes when interacting with law enforcement officers, not the least of which is giving consent to a search that would otherwise be illegal. Informed members of the public have an easier time making use of their rights and protecting themselves from overreaches by law enforcement officers that could lead to life-altering consequences.
Knowing and making use of one’s rights can limit the chances of someone facing serious criminal charges and can give them a better chance of successfully fighting back against an illegal search after an arrest with the assistance of an experienced legal professional.