As an American citizen, you have rights that the government must respect. Many of these rights come from the U.S. Constitution, so they are often called “constitutional rights.” Since the main part of the U.S. Constitution is all about explaining the forms and powers of different parts of the government (like Congress, the presidency, and the courts), the writers added ten amendments at the end that are all about protecting citizens’ rights. This group of short statements is part of the Constitution, but it’s separate from the main body of the Constitution, so it is often called the “Bill of Rights.” These ten amendments put important limits on what government agencies like the police can do when investigating a crime. As a Florida resident, you also have rights under state laws and the Florida Constitution that can help to protect you from overzealous police officers.
Stop Or Arrest
When police are investigating a potential crime, they usually want to talk to people they think may have been involved or know something about what happened. If something that you’ve done makes them interested in you as a potential suspect or a witness to a crime, they may stop and detain you. Whether they stop you while you’re driving, come to your home or business to ask questions, or invite you to the police station to answer questions, you have a duty to participate in the process, but only to a limited extent.
Right To Remain Silent
One of the most well-known rights is often described as your “right to remain silent.” This right comes from the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is why you hear defendants in movies and TV shows say that they “plead the Fifth.” The Fifth Amendment tells you that your words can’t be forced out of you to be used against you. While it doesn’t give you a complete right to refuse to talk to police authorities, it does protect you from having to say things that could be used to convict you of a crime.
If you are only a potential witness to a crime, they usually have a right to ask you questions about what you saw or heard or might know that relates to the crime. But if you are a suspect in an investigation – and you may not know if you are, so err on the side of caution – the Fifth Amendment covers anything you say. The best thing you can do is take advantage of your right and not talk to the police until you have consulted with a qualified criminal defense attorney.
Persons, Houses, Papers, And Effects
Beyond your words, which the police can’t force you to use against yourself, you have the right for your things to be safe, secure, and private, without excessive government interference. Both the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Florida law clearly says that you have the right to be “secure in [your] persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,” which means that no police or other government authority can look through your things or take things from you without proper authority. However, there are a few ways that the police can get approval to search your possessions legally.
One way they can legally search you or your things is by getting your permission. This is called a “consent search” because you’ve agreed to it in advance. But it’s usually not a good idea to give police permission to look through your car or your property, so it’s always best to politely refuse when police ask you for consent to search you or something you own.
Another way the police get the legal right to search or inspect your things is when they have “probable cause” to believe that you’ve been involved in criminal activity. This is a legal standard that they will have to justify in court later, so if they do choose to go ahead and search your car, your backpack, or even your home, based only on “probable cause.” It means that the officers were convinced, for reasons that they need to be able to explain clearly, that they needed to perform a search right then to find important evidence of criminal behavior.
The strongest authority that the police can have to search your home, car, or business is to get a search warrant. The law says that a warrant must be issued by a judge and describe the area to be searched, what the police are looking for, how the search might relate to a crime and the things that are to be seized. A warrant has to specify the date and time, and location of the premises and be based on a sworn statement of law enforcement officers as to the reasons for their suspicions.
The Fruit Of The Poisonous Tree
When you know the basics of your legal rights and understand that they protect you from illegal questioning or searches, you are better prepared to confront law officers who might try to convince you to willingly give up those rights and agree to answer questions or allow a search. When you refuse to provide your agreement to a search, the officers are required to halt any further attempts to search or to find a legal reason to continue the search. It may be very important later if you are on trial for charges related to some item they found in the search for your lawyer to be able to argue against the evidence being used against you, especially if it was seized illegally. A legal doctrine called the “fruit of the poisonous tree” might help your case if your lawyer can show that the police wouldn’t have been able to get some key piece of evidence if they hadn’t broken the law in how they searched you and your things. The “poisonous tree” is the illegal search, and the “fruit” of that tree is the evidence that they want to bring into court, which judges will not allow.
Koberlein Law Offices – Criminal Defense Lawyers
To find out more about your legal protections against unreasonable searches and seizures and about the defense strategies that can help you avoid a conviction, you should get in touch with a skilled criminal defense attorney. Your attorney should be knowledgeable about your constitutional rights under both the state and United States Constitution, keen on Florida’s criminal justice process, and capable of skillfully representing you in a criminal matter. At Koberlein Law Offices, our experienced criminal defense attorneys excel at defending clients against misdemeanor and felony criminal charges in Florida. We help ensure that your rights are protected and that you get the best possible results. Talk to the criminal defense lawyers at Koberlein Law Offices by calling us toll-free at 877.556.2889 or by contacting us online.