Many of us have sat down on a Friday evening and put on a Netflix crime documentary. Whether you are on the edge of your seat watching a true crime ‘whodunit’ or choose shows that watch law enforcement manage daily issues, you will find that many of these types of shows have one thing very much in common, and that is the need for evidence.
Search and seizure is a key part of obtaining evidence during a criminal case, and this piece is going to talk about why that is.
Read on to find out more!
What are Search and Seizure?
Search and seizure is essentially when law enforcement search either a person or property for evidence when they believe they have committed a crime. This could be either on someone’s person in the middle of a street, it could be pulling someone over in a vehicle on the side of the road, or it can even involve going to someone’s home and upturning the entire contents of their house if they believe there is reasonable cause. This is the search element. The seizure element is comprised of obtaining any found evidence or arresting the person who has committed a crime themselves.
Having said that, it is also important that law enforcement have the correct search warrants or arrest warrants to show permissions to do this. Though, there are also special permissions granted for law enforcement who believe there is ‘probable cause’ that a person has committed a crime. However, that probable cause needs to hold up in court, otherwise, it will be seen as illegal and a breach of the Fourth Amendment.
The Dark Side of Search and Seizure
There are issues that some standards of proof can follow. Discrimination, profiling, and any other unlawful reasons or actions to begin a search and seizure are illegal and are a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment. Moreover, if the evidence is obtained in this illegal manner, it cannot be used or upheld in court.
If you believe you have been a victim of a wrongful and unreasonable search and seizure, there is professional help available for you.
The main reason that search and seizure are so important to an investigation is that it can be a vital step to obtaining evidence of a crime committed. This could be anything from a misdemeanor to a first-degree felony.
There are a few ways in which evidence can be collected. Random stops and searches are often used to keep people safe. This could be when crossing over a border into a new country, queuing to cross the sea in a ferry or other transport, or even used for entry into the bigger known venues such as museums or high-profile buildings. Others require an issued warrant or probable cause. However, there are standards of proof that need to be held up to in order for everything to be legal and above board.
These are as follows.
Reasonable suspicion – There needs to be a valid reason to believe that evidence of a crime exists. In this case, the response would be to stop and search.
Probable cause – The evidence is more likely to exist than not. In this case, a search will either be conducted, or an arrest may be made.
Beyond a reasonable doubt – There needs to be both a meaningful and significant lack of doubt that someone has committed a crime. If so, a conviction would then be obtained.
When evidence is obtained through safe and legal practice, it can make or break a case, which is why these warrants are there for law enforcement to use correctly and professionally. It could be the tiniest find during a search and seizure that could bring a whole case together. Whether this is a weapon, a drug, or even something seemingly harmless that could in fact be the missing piece of the puzzle.
Speed and Efficiency
Everyone who has watched true crime documentaries knows that criminal masterminds right down to people who have never committed a crime before will be making sure they can get rid of any evidence they possibly can at any point. Of course, usually, the criminal masterminds will have thought about this issue ahead of time; but those who have conducted a break-in and robbery, had a bar fight, or have stolen something will more than likely be focused on getting rid of anything that would incriminate them. This is why search and seizure can not only help speed up an investigation but also prevent one from falling through. Stopping and obtaining evidence from someone means law enforcement is preventing them from getting rid of it.
No one should have their constitutional rights violated by those who have sworn in to protect and serve, and everyone that has deserves justice.