Aggressively Protecting Your Rights

Appeals court affirms: Asserting your rights doesn’t give officers a right to search you.

| Apr 3, 2020 | Drug Charges

If certain police officers had their way, merely asserting your rights against unreasonable search and seizure would amount to “reasonable suspicion” that you’re doing something illegal — thereby justifying the search they wanted to do in the first place.

If that sounds like a Catch-22 situation to you, you’re not alone. The Louisiana Second Court of Appeals pointed out the absurdity of this exact situation in a recent ruling that has implications for potential defendants around the nation when they threw out the illegally-obtained evidence against a suspected drug trafficker.

Officers stopped the driver of a vehicle for allegedly driving erratically (although dashcam footage failed to clearly support this claim) and questioned the driver about where he’d been and whether he’d been drinking. The driver denied being intoxicated and produced his insurance card. He was calm, collected and reasonably patient — despite being asked to get out of his car and stand with his hands on the vehicle while officers nosed around.

When they asked to search his car and trunk, he asserted his rights by declining permission. That made the officers involved suspicious, and they decided that the fact that he had his insurance card inside a plastic baggie was more cause for suspicion. They decided to search the car for weapons and drugs, anyhow, without a warrant. They found enough drugs to charge him with trafficking.

The officers claimed that they had every reason to suspect the driver of hiding something dangerous or illegal since he denied their request to search his vehicle and kept asking why he was being detained. (They also erroneously tried to characterize a somewhat in-depth search of the vehicle as merely looking for evidence that was “in plain sight.”)

When officers overreach and try to twist the law to their own ends, it can ruin lives, damage reputations and put your freedom at risk. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you fight illegally obtained evidence and the serious charges against you.