One of the best ways to protect your rights is to know your rights. In Georgia, you are protected under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution from unlawful search and seizure. Because of this, law enforcement is required to obtain a search warrant before they are allowed to enter your property (vehicle, home, etc).
Signed by a judge, a search warrant is what gives police the legal – but limited – authority to search your property. The police officer must show probable cause for obtaining the warrant.
The concept of probable cause roughly means that police have a reasonable conviction that someone has committed a crime or intends to. That conviction must be demonstrated to the judge to get the warrant in the first place.
In court, the officer will have to show that their beliefs were based on facts and evidence, rather than just suspicion. Proving this can be tricky, as it requires the court to agree that an objective person would believe that the subject in question had participated or was going to participate in a criminal act. It is important to understand that failure to prove probable cause can result in charges being dropped.
Another term that you’ll hear a lot in a legal setting is “Reasonable Suspicion.” This is closely related to probable cause, but with a few subtle yet important differences. Like probable cause, reasonable suspicion means that facts and circumstances point to someone committing or having committed a crime. This is often used to justify an investigatory stop but does not require as much evidence as probable cause.
While reasonable suspicion is used to determine an officer’s decision to perform a search, it is a little more vaguely defined than probable cause. Yes, it is partially based on the facts at hand, but it also takes into account the officer’s training and background. Satisfying reasonable suspicion can authorize an officer to stop or detain you, but it is not adequate cause for a search or arrest.
Not necessarily. In fact, in the state of Georgia, an officer can execute a warrantless search based solely on the smell of suspected drugs. That is not only the circumstance that can justify a warrantless search in Georgia. Others include:
Any evidence obtained without a warrant will likely be excluded from any criminal case against you in court. Likewise, any evidence that was obtained in direct violation of your constitutional rights can potentially be excluded. It’s vital that you know your rights, and work to protect them.
Protecting your rights is what the Claiborne Firm does best. Our attorneys work harder than the prosecution, securing your freedom by knowing the facts and showing where law enforcement operated outside of the law. If you were subjected to an illegal search, we will do everything in our power to get you the best possible outcome for your legal matter. If you need to get your case dismissed or reduced, schedule a legal consultation to step back into your power and possibilities.