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Why does a Supreme Court ruling affect home searches?

On Behalf of | Jul 30, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

The police must follow the law when performing a search and arrest. New Jersey state law, in turn, must adhere to the United States Constitution’s protections against illegal searches and seizures. The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision regarding the Fourth Amendment affirmed the “sanctity of the home” and placed impediments to law enforcement’s abuse of warrantless searches.

A long-reaching verdict from the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Caniglia v. Strom focused on the police’s dubious search of someone’s home during a wellness check. During the check, the police searched the property and confiscated the homeowner’s guns. Essentially, the police attempted to extend warrantless search rules typically applied to cars to a person’s home. The court noted significant differences exist between vehicles and homes.

Now, if someone were involved in a car crash and the police saw illegal drugs on a seat, a warrantless search could be legal. So, any firearms and drugs procured from the car might be admissible in court.

Searching a car involved in an accident might be legal even when there’s no evidence of a crime. Per the Supreme Court, the bar is higher when searching a house without a warrant.

The suppression of evidence

Criminal law statutes address the legality and admissibility of evidence seized during a search. If an attorney proves a search wasn’t legal, the judge may approve a motion to suppress the evidence. When the prosecutor can’t enter evidence into trial, the case may end up dismissed. Convicting someone on firearms charges becomes nearly impossible when the seized firearms cannot be entered as evidence.

Probable cause could support a search without a warrant. If the police see someone committing a crime, entering a home might be acceptable. Absent probable cause, a warrantless search might not support valid charges against a defendant.