Damico & Stockstill, Attorneys at Law

Illegal searches can result in exclusion of evidence at trial

 A Baton Rouge man facing federal drug and gun charges also faces murder charges in state court. The charges, as The Advocate notes, stem from a search of the defendant's home back in June of 2010. Police had apparently entered the man's home looking for evidence that would connect him to the 2010 homicide of two Baton Rouge men. In the process they claim to have found evidence of other criminal activity.  

The 34-year-old is specifically charged with possession with intent to distribute 79 hydrocodone pills and 200 grams of marijuana. Sources were not clear as to the specific firearms charges. At the state level he faces charges for first-degree murder and attempted murder.

One of the issues brought out this case is that police found a package of crack cocaine contained in a cereal box during the search, but that prosecutors will not be permitted to present that evidence at trial since the search warrant investigators relied on did not encompass a search of the cereal box.

Searches and seizures is an important area of law when it comes to criminal defense. The Fourth Amendment protects criminal suspects from unreasonable searches and seizures, and courts have come up with a host of rules regarding what is and is not permissible for police officers to do during a search.

One of the rules courts have come up with is that where a police officer has discovered evidence of criminal activity as a result of an illegal search, that evidence may be excluded from trial. That is exactly what happened in this case.

The point of this rule is not to hide evidence that would lead to a greater knowledge of the truth about criminal activity, but to ensure that police respect the rights of criminal defendants. We want to live in a society where our law enforcement officers respect our rights even while they work to keep us safe.

Source: The Advocate, "BR man on trial in drug case also faces murder charges," Bill Lodge, April 24, 2012.

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