Understanding Your Constitutional Rights
As criminal defense lawyers, we are constantly searching for evidence that our clients have been victims of constitutional violations on behalf of the government. Some of the most common questions from our clients involve how their rights under the US and State constitutions might affect the outcome of their case. There are several sections of the United States Constitution that primarily and directly influence criminal investigations. For this reason, if you are charged with a crime, it is critical that you retain a St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyer with extensive experience litigating constitutional issues.
The sections of the Constitution that most directly affect criminal defendants are the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth amendments. Those amendments protect residents of the United States from unlawful searches and seizures by law enforcement and establish our rights to a jury trial, our rights to representation by a lawyer, and our right to be free from self incrimination. Knowledge of these rights and your assertion of them can mean the difference between your conviction on a criminal case or a dismissal.Fourth Amendment
The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution states: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. It is important to remember that police are not allowed to search you, your home, your car, or any of your belongings unless they have obtained a warrant to do so or they have some exception to the warrant requirement.
If a police officer asks for your consent to search your person or any of your belongings, it typically means that the officer has no other legal basis to conduct the search. You are allowed to, and under most circumstances should refuse to allow the police to search. Many people make the mistake of believing that refusing to submit to a search will make it seem like they are guilty or that they have something to hide. Police and prosecutors try to push this narrative, but the right to be free from government intrusion is a fundamental right that you can and should assert.
If a police officer violates your Fourth Amendment right and searches or arrests you without probable cause or a warrant, you may be entitled to significant legal recourse. For example, if the police conduct an illegal search and discover contraband as a result, a skilled St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney may be able to file a motion to suppress that can result in that evidence being excluded from your trial. A violation of your Fourth Amendment rights is a grave constitutional violation and you should strive to retain a lawyer who believes in the preservation of those rights.Fifth and Sixth Amendment Miranda Rights
The Fifth Amendment states that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” The Sixth Amendment tells us that every defendant “shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury… and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.” The Fifth and Sixth amendments work in conjunction to form what we commonly refer to as Miranda rights. You may have seen someone arrested on a TV show followed by a police officer informing him or her that they have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.
Foolishly, people sometimes choose not to take advantage of these rights. Too often, people are convicted of crimes simply because they confess (either falsely or truthfully) under pressure from police interrogation. When being interrogated by police, if you ask for a lawyer or simply tell them that you do not want to answer their questions, the police must immediately terminate the interrogation. If you find yourself being questioned by police, the first thing you should do is contact a dedicated St. Petersburg Criminal defense lawyer.Speak to the Lawyers at Hanlon Law Today
The lawyers at Hanlon Law have extensive experience exposing constitutional violations on the part of the government. If you believe you might be the victim of a constitutional violation, don’t hesitate to contact us today at 727.897.5413.