The case involves a 2006 traffic stop in which a narcotics detective stopped a man who was seen leaving a house suspected for drug activity. At the time arrest was made, the officer had no reason to believe a crime had been committed, but he did discover during the stop that there was an outstanding warrant for the man’s arrest, searched him, and ultimately arrested him for possession of methamphetamine.
At issue in the case is whether the officer who made the stop had sufficient legal grounds to stop the man, given that he had no reason to believe a crime had been committed. Although officers are permitted under constitutional law to make brief warrantless investigative stops based on a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed, such stops are easy to abuse and not always approved by the courts.
If the stop is determined to be illegal, another issue in the case is whether prosecutors were able to use evidence of meth possession, given that the evidence was obtained as a result of a possibly illegal search. While the so-called exclusionary rule is well-established in Fourth Amendment cases, it isn’t always a given that evidence obtained in a questionable manner will be deemed illegally obtained.
The case is a reminder of some of the basic Fourth Amendment issues that can come up in criminal defense. For defendants, of course, it is critical to have an experienced advocate to ensure that one’s interests are represented and one’s rights are protected. In our next post, we’ll look a bit more closely at some of these issues and how a criminal defense attorney will work through them in the course of building a strong defense case.