Illegal Search and Seizure – Know What to do if it Happens to You

officer with evidence bagOne of my clients recently “walked” after a special unit of the Nebraska State Patrol trained in drug enforcement caught him with about $40,000 worth of illegal drugs. Was it fancy lawyering that got him off? Well, I think it was good lawyering, but that’s not all.  My client went free from the felony drug charges against him because of laws that protect us all, and because of his smart moves during the police encounter leading to his arrest. It’s important to understand, however, that the laws that set my client free aren’t intended to protect the guilty. Rather, they are to protect the innocent – to protect us all. That’s why, when it comes to illegal search and seizure, you should know what to do if it happens to you.

Illegal Search and Seizure – It Could Happen to You

We’re all guaranteed Constitutional protections from government intrusion on our privacy — innocent and guilty alike. With few exceptions, the police can’t legally bother you with a stop, or search you, unless there’s a credible reason to believe you’re breaking the law (ie. probable cause). But can’t and won’t are two different things.

As we’ve seen in the news, despite laws against unreasonable search and seizure, it still happens. Whether or not you think you’re doing something illegal, this is stuff everyone should know. After all, it’s not only guilty people who are subjected to unlawful police searches. It could happen to you, too. While most of the law enforcement officers I know are good cops who don’t purposefully violate citizens’ rights, everyone makes mistakes sometimes.  Law enforcement officers are no different.

Why my client walked

In the recent Douglas County, Nebraska, felony drug case in which my client “walked” instead of serving what could have been a lengthy prison sentence, it happened because the court threw out the evidence against him. All of it.

I made a motion to the court and the judge agreed with me. He refused to allow into evidence the tens-of-thousands of dollars worth of drugs the State Patrol seized from my client’s suitcase, or anything else found during the search. The judge suppressed the evidence because he agreed that it came from an illegal police search. That meant the prosecutor had no choice but to drop the felony drug charges.

I won that Motion to Suppress for my client because law enforcement violated his Constitutional rights with an illegal search. They stopped him without a good reason and they searched his bags without a warrant when there was no exception allowing them to do it. That rendered the evidence they got during the search inadmissible.

I also won because, during the stop, while the Nebraska State Troopers were violating his rights with an unlawful search, my client made the right moves.

What my client did during the stop that was smart

Pay attention to this part. I’m going to tell you exactly what my client did that helped him walk out of the courthouse after being caught with tens of thousands of dollars worth of drugs.

  1. He didn’t run from police when they approached him
  2. He didn’t argue, resist or obstruct during the encounter

It’s pretty simple stuff, but it’s not always easy. Emotions can run high during a police encounter, especially if you feel like they’re violating your rights. In my client’s case, staying calm and cooperative and not arguing or telling the troopers how to do their jobs (like they’d listen anyway) paid off for him. Had my client done any of the above, his case could have ended much differently.

How you can be smart too

If law enforcement stops you, whether or not a search follows, the best things to do to help yourself and your lawyer down the road (should the need arise) are:

 

 

If the police perform an illegal search and find evidence, a good lawyer will try to have it suppressed so it can’t be used in court. If the search was without a warrant, there may be a chance your lawyer can find a legal argument to give you some leverage in court.

Don’t make it harder on your lawyer by doing something during the cop encounter that could end up making an exception to the warrant rule, clock more charges on your docket, or give the prosecution something to use against you in court.

Remember, you aren’t going to settle any disputes over your rights there on the scene. Those will all have to be hashed out in court later. All you are likely to accomplish by resisting police or arguing with them is to make more trouble for yourself.

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 


For details about the author, Hightower Reff  Partner Attorney and criminal defense lawyer Susan Reff, visit her profile page.

Find out more about how Susan and Hightower Reff can help with your criminal case. 

If you need help with a criminal defense case, contact Hightower Reff Law todayand come visit with Partner Attorney Susan Reff at the firm’s Omaha office

What Happens if You’re Charged with a Felony in Nebraska (Infographic)

felony-hightower-reff-law-omahaIt can be a scary not knowing what happens when you’re charged with a felony in Nebraska, if you end up on the wrong end of the law.

A felony is the highest stake criminal charge you can face. If you’re convicted, you lose many of your basic rights. You can’t vote, legally have a gun, serve in the military, be issued a passport, hold certain licenses, or get public housing… and the list goes on.

Clarity = peace of mind

When you know what happens when you’re charged with a felony, you’re more clear about things, and that can bring with it peace of mind – and an easier time assisting in your own representation.

Take a look at this Nebraska Felony Roadmap. It lays out the Nebraska felony criminal court process from start to finish, with several different scenarios.

You may be surprised to learn that, for some cases, in some areas of Nebraska, there’s an option that could keep the charge off your record – drug court or diversion.

 

The entire process from citation or arrest to sentencing can take a year or more. If you’re convicted, you have a limited time after sentencing to file an appeal.

Good support is key

The Hightower Reff Law criminal defense team in Omaha helps good people in bad situations. We have for many years. Getting a good criminal defense lawyer onboard who has a good team behind them is crucial when you’re charged with a felony, because there’s a lot on the line. Along with the peace of mind that comes with understanding the process, you also need the peace of mind that comes with good legal support.

 

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 


For details about the author, Hightower Reff  Partner Attorney Susan Reff, visit her profile page.

Find out more about how Hightower Reff can help with your criminal case. 

If you need help with a criminal defense case, contact Hightower Reff Law todayand come visit with Partner Attorney Susan Reff at the Omaha office. 

Three Things You Should Know if You’re Charged with a Misdemeanor in Nebraska

Our criminal defense team at Hightower Reff Law helps good people in bad situations. We’ve done it for many years. We get it. When youthree things you should know misdemeanors‘re charged with a misdemeanor in Nebraska, the scariest part can be not knowing what to expect. That’s why we try to make things as clear as we can for our clients. One of the things that helps is filling them in on some of the legal basics.

No article can replace the advice of a good criminal defense attorney, and it isn’t intended to do so. However, this article may give you some information to consider while you search for the right lawyer for your case.

1. Charged with a Misdemeanor Doesn’t Always Mean Jail

The first thing you should know – if you’re going to be charged with a misdemeanor in Nebraska, you aren’t always arrested and taken to jail. Law enforcement may issue a ticket and release you on your own recognizance instead. Regardless, always remain silent until you talk to a lawyer. It’s smart to hire an attorney or ask for court appointed counsel as soon you can.

If you’re taken to jail to be processed after you’re arrested, you may be able to bond out right away without seeing a judge.

Next, there will be an arraignment hearing at which the court will read the charges against you, and advise you of your rights.

2. You Could have a Chance to Keep the Charges Off Your Record…Maybe 

The second thing you should know if you’re charged with a misdemeanor – if it’s your first offense, you may qualify for pre-trial diversion. This may happen for cases like minor in possession, possession of marijuana under an ounce, shoplifting and, in Sarpy County, DUI.

Diversion program requirements and lengths vary by county, but if you qualify and complete the program successfully, the criminal charges will be dismissed and no conviction will show on your record.

3. You Might Have to Be Patient – This May Take Awhile

The third thing you should know if you’re charged with a misdemeanor – if diversion isn’t an option and the case moves forward, your attorney will start preparing your case for trial. He or she will talk to law enforcement and prosecutors will evaluate the evidence against you, but it may take a while to get to trial.. if you get there.

Your attorney may also try to negotiate a plea deal for you, depending on the strength of the evidence against you and the other circumstances of the case.

If you aren’t able to reach a plea agreement, or your lawyer advises you not to take a plea deal, there may be pre-trial hearings or motions hearings before your case gets to trial.

If you’re found not guilty after a trial, the case will be dismissed and it’s over.

On the other hand, if the prosecution is able to prove the charges “beyond a reasonable doubt,” and you’re found guilty, you will be convicted of the misdemeanor offense. Your sentencing will happen at a later hearing, after a completion of a pre-sentence investigation.

The entire process from citation or arrest to sentencing can take up to six months, so you might need to be patient and let your attorney do his or her job. If you rush into a decision that isn’t in your best interest just to get the case over with, you may have to deal with the consequences for a long time.

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 


For details about the author, Hightower Reff Partner Attorney Susan Reff, visit her profile page at our main website.
To learn about Hightower Reff’s misdemeanor and felony criminal law practice, visit our main website.