Staying Calm In Court

What Is Your Defense If the Police Violated Your Right to Privacy?

One of the most worrisome things in American criminal law is the feeling that the police may have violated your right to privacy during a search. What sort of defense would a criminal law attorney use on behalf of a client under these circumstances? Let's look at how a lawyer assesses these situations and what your options might be.

Gathering Information

The first order of business is to figure how the police determined there was a chargeable crime. You won't get the first crack at questioning whether the police violated your privacy rights until there's an arraignment. This is the initial hearing where the state tells the court what they're charging you with.

At this hearing, your criminal law attorney will have a chance to question police officers about the evidence they used to obtain search warrants and back up the charges. If there's a hint that the police could only have learned something by violating privacy rules, your lawyer will make a motion to dismiss the charges based on the violation.

The issue isn't over if the judge doesn't bite on the dismissal motion, though. You'll have another chance to review the issue during the discovery process. Before you go to trial, the prosecution has to disclose all evidence it might use against you in court. Likewise, your counsel has the right to ask the police how they obtained the evidence. This may produce another chance to ask the judge to dismiss the case.

Applicable Law

In criminal law, your right to privacy is dominated by two things. First, there is curtilage. Second, there is the expectation of privacy.

Curtilage covers your expectation of privacy within the confines of your home. In multi-unit settings, there's a somewhat reduced curtilage expectation because people can hear voices and activities through walls and floors.

The expectation of privacy refers to situations where you wouldn't anticipate people seeing something while in a somewhat more public situation. If you're inside of your car, for example, there's only an expectation of privacy regarding what can't be readily seen. You expect privacy if something is in the car's trunk, but you wouldn't expect privacy based on something just sitting in the passenger seat in plain sight.

Bringing Evidence Together with Law

A criminal law attorney has to demonstrate that specific rules applied in the given situation, and they also have to prove that the police took actions violating those rules. The judge will then ask the prosecution to explain what happened. If they can't, the judge can sanction the prosecution either by tossing the evidence or dismissing the case.