Search and Seizure. Legal Justifications

Subject: Law
Pages: 4
Words: 1046
Reading time:
4 min
Study level: College


The constitution of the United States of America protects its citizens against unreasonable raids from the police force or the authorities. Incase a police officer wants to conduct a search he or she must be armed with a search warrant issued by the relevant authorities in this case an officer in the judicial system a judge or a magistrate. A search warrant is a law approved document which allows the police officers to search and seize any evidence from a suspected place (Siegel, 2009). The constitution clearly under the 4th amendment seeks to protect the American citizens against surprise police intrusions and as Hill (nd) asserts it states that

“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” (1).

Exclusion of the Physical Evidence from William Lawyer’s Perspective

William’s lawyer could argue that the collection of the evidence in the Ellis residence was not done under his consent and thus his constitutional rights were violated since Ellis was not present at his residence and thus there were no warnings as prescribed under the Miranda v. Arizona U.S of 1966 which seeks to inform one of the rights involved during a warrant less search and thus the presented evidence could have as well as have placed by the investigating officers. This can be in line with the case of Knapp v. state where the physical evidence was excluded under the Wisconsin State constitution because the evidence presented was a result of intentional police conduct and thus the same could have Mr. Williams case (Gardner & Anderson, 2009:189). The problem with the evidence presented in the case of William was clinical type of evidence which correlated with the DNA of the accused thus the accused had to explain why the evidence connecting to him and what he was doing at the place if in reality he was not connected to the death. As a matter of fact, the clinical evidence is not contrary to the public policy because no moral values, political instincts or prejudices were made (McNamara, n.d).

Legal Justifications for Unwarranted Searches

While the fourteenth amendment of the US constitution bars unwarranted searches, sometimes there exist justifications for exemptions against exclusions, for instance, a search incident to a lawful arrest. For example in the case of the USA v. Robinowitz, the Supreme Court expanded the incident to arrest. As observed by Chase (2010) the court argued that it should not be

“Whether it is reasonable to procure a search warrant but whether the search was reasonable” (2583).

After the police suspected Robinowitz of forgery and then conducted the search and found the evidence, the court ruled that the search was warranted, thus could not be suppressed (Chase, 2010).

Probable reason of likelihood of tampering with the evidence is another cause which can make law officers to conduct unwarranted searches. If the authorities feel that by not searching the premises that the existing evidence will be tampered with, the police officers can conduct the search and explain to the courts the necessity of search was necessitated by that fact.

Exclusionary Rule and the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree and Their Application to the Scenario

If the indicted claims that the seizures and searches were irrational, these claims are usually presented in a containment hearing. Before the fourth amendment of the constitution, law enforcers used to conduct unwarranted searches and people could be jailed out of the presented pieces of evidence but in 1914, the court found ways of enforcing the fourth amendment in the case of Weeks v. United States, the evidence seized was used to convict him but on his appeal, the supreme court held that evidence presented had been secured through warrant less searches and thus Weeks conviction was reversed.

Related to the exclusionary rule is the fruit of poisonous tree doctrine which was established in 1939 in the case of Nardone v. United States, under the doctrine, the court can dismiss any evidence derived from the results of illegal searches. For example, if an illegal search garnered evidence of narcotics in certain premises and the evidence is then used to obtain a search warrant the exclusionary rule that the evidence initially used to obtain the warrant was illegal and the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine thus excludes any evidence obtained from the search (Taylor, 2007).

These scenarios could not have applied in our case due to the simple fact from the evidence given by Mrs. Steven that she had seen William Ellis enter her townhouse several times was not given based on hearsay but what she had seen and that presented the first piece evidence (circumstantial) that the accused could have participated in the murder and thus there was probable reason for conducting the unwarranted searches in William Ellis premises in order to look for any evidence that could connect him to the murder.

Describe What Steps You Would Have Taken Had You Done This Investigation

After Mrs. Ellis had called the 911 and the paramedics came and did their tests from which they found Mr. Stevens dead, as the officer in charge of the investigations, I would have secured the site to make sure that there was no contamination or tampering with the evidence and then record everybody who had been seen around the place starting with Mrs. Stevens herself. Observing and photographing the scene if was missed then would have collected the finger prints and blood stains for forensic analysis and after that follow the evidence and arrest the suspects and forward them for questioning. It is usual that the paramedics’ fingerprints will be found among the others but it cannot be hard to remove their prints. Starting with those recent found on the scene, arrest them and confiscate everything that may be related to the murder. Finally, based on the evidence given by Mrs. Stevens I would also have arrested Mr. Williams for questioning and based on forensic analysis I would then have decided whether the accused had a case to answer or didn’t.

Reference List

Chase, D. S. (2010). Who is secure? A framework for Arizona v. Gant. Web.

Gardner, T. J., & Anderson, T. M. (2009). Criminal Evidence: Principles and Cases, 7th Edition. New York: Cengage Learning.

Hill, N. G., & Hill, T. K. (2010). Search and Seizure. Web.

McNamara, P. (Not Dated). The Canons of Evidence – Rules Of Exclusion Or Rules Of Use? Web.

Siegel, J. L. (2009). Essentials of Criminal Justice. New York: Cengage Learning