Drugs in carThis is the next post in our series on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent Rodriguez decision. Our last article discussed how the Rodriguez case limits law enforcement’s abilities to use drug sniffing dogs during traffic stops. In this discussion we will dive into an explanation of when Arkansas residents need to allow themselves to be searched by the police and will look at how one can challenge illegally gained consent. If you have been charged with a crime, after a police search, then it is important that you contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately.

Arkansas residents should understand the difference between a consensual search and a “seizure”

Arkansas residents are protected by the Fourth Amendment and this protection means they may not be unreasonably detained by the police. Under Terry v. Ohio, an officer may not stop someone unless they have “reasonable suspicion” that the person is engaging in illegal activity. When an officer has such suspicion, and detains someone, then the detention may not go beyond what is necessary to deal with the initial suspicion. This means that if, for example, one is stopped for speeding then the police may issue a ticket and require documentation such as a registration. They may not, however, engage in a full blown investigation of other criminal activity without reasonable suspicion of that activity. This was the case in the recent Rodriguez decision as the arresting officers went beyond the scope of the original stop by detaining the Defendant, for an additional amount of time, to investigate matters not related to the original stop.

It must also be understood, however, that police may gain consent to a search. If the officer does not have reasonable suspicion of a crime and asks a suspect for consent to stop and talk to the person, to search the person’s vehicle, or to search the person himself, then a search will be allowed if consent is freely given. This means that one is within their right to say “no” when an officer asks permission to search their vehicle or person. If a search is conducted without consent or reasonable suspicion then the seizure is unlawful under the Fourth Amendment and evidence obtained can be kept out of Court.

Police may not force Arkansas residents to consent to a search

Consent to a search will not be seen as valid if the defendant was coerced into giving it. If for example, the officer threatens force or somehow intimidates a defendant into giving consent then the incident will be considered an unlawful seizure. The key to determining whether consent was legitimate is to analyze whether an average reasonable person was placed in a situation where they did not feel they could say “no” to the officer. If such was the case then a criminal defense attorney can file a Motion to Suppress evidence and such evidence can be excluded from Court. We discussed these issues at length in our recent discussion on challenging consent given to an officer.

Our Little Rock, Arkansas lawyers regularly handle matters involving search and seizure issues. We devote our practice to defending the rights of the accused throughout our state. Contact us today to speak with an attorney.