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SEARCH AND SEIZURE IN THE 21ST CENTURY

October 23rd, 2013 Criminal Law

While the Founding Fathers and authors of the Federal Constitution in the 1789’s could, in no way, imagine that people in two centuries would be driving cars, flying overhead in airplanes or connecting to libraries worth of information on the internet with the pecking of some words on a computer keyboard, they did possess a sense that government unbounded could violate the dignity and liberty of its citizens.  These statesmen included the First Amendment in the Constitution to make sure government does not mandate what kind of religion people should practice and what kind of articles the press must publish.

They also sought to protect citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures without probable cause.  The authors enshrined this important bulwark of liberty in the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.   When the Constitution was written the Founders saw how British soldiers had used force to take people’s property from their homes or places of business arbitrarily.  The goal of the Fourth Amendment was to make sure the police could only search someone or some place if they had some probable cause that the person or place to be searched contained some evidence that may help them determine if a crime was committed and by whom.

As the decades passed, the police began to use new technology such as wiretaps to intercept telegraph messages and later telephone conversations.  In response, courts began determining if these wiretaps constituted unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment.  The Constitution demanded courts interpret these new police tactics regarding wire-driven communications the way they had looked at seizures of physical evidence in earlier eras.

Now over the last two decades, law enforcement, particularly on the national level, has invested enormous efforts and resources attempting to secure vast amounts of information which individuals and companies send to each other via the internet.  As a result, the courts are now tasked with figuring out how far the government can legally go in acquiring certain information available online before it runs afoul of the Fourth Amendment.

Regardless, the objective of criminal defense attorneys has not changed, only the context of their inquiries.  When a person is arrested by police and charged with a crime, the most commonplace avenue in which his or her attorney is likely to challenge the police arises in this realm of the Fourth Amendment: is the seizure of information by the police constitutional?  Or is the search and seizure unreasonable?  Attorneys today in states such as Oklahoma and Arkansas regularly look to the judicial opinions of the past to analyze the novel Fourth Amendment questions of the day.

At the law firm of NOLAN CADDELL REYNOLDS, our attorneys have substantial experience representing those charged with criminal offenses.  Contact us toll free at 1-800-709-5297 or locally at 479-782-5297.  Or you can reach us on our website at www.nolancaddellreynolds.com.  Our criminal defense attorneys have regularly challenged searches and seizures of evidence that the police have sought to use against criminal defendants.home-icon

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John T