Oftentimes when Hoosiers are charged with a criminal offense, prosecutors rely on physical evidence to build their case. This evidence is typically gathered by police officers as part of a search and seizure. However, the police cannot just stop and search individuals and their residences at random, as the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects citizens from unlawful search and seizure.
So what makes a search and seizure lawful? In short, a police officer may only search an individual or property under three situations. First, an individual or property may be searched if a valid search warrant is obtained. Second, if the search is incident to arrest, then it is likely legal. Third, if an officer has probable cause to conduct a search, then he or she may have an argument indicating that the search was legal.
However, even within these areas, there are exceptions that could render a search illegal. For example, say an individual is pulled over by the police but without good reason. If the officer subsequently arrests the driver and, upon a search of his person, discovers illegal drugs, that evidence may be suppressed at trial. Why? Because the initial stop was illegal in the first place. Under the law, fruit of the poisonous tree, that is evidence that is gathered only as the result of an illegal act, cannot be used against an individual in a court of law.
Yet, in order to suppress evidence an individual must object to it in a timely fashion during trial. Failing to do so will allow the items in question to come into evidence and bar an individual from challenging the issue on appeal. This is why it is critical that Hoosiers who are facing criminal charges consider obtaining competent legal assistance so that they can protect themselves, their legal rights, and their future as fully as possible.