What can I do if the police violated my 4th amendment rights?

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What can I do if the police violated my 4th amendment rights?

Someone threw a house party and the cops showed up. The house was locked with 6 of us inside; all lights were out. The officers knocked for awhile with no one inside answering. Finally the officer broke the door down and came in and arrested all 6 people. When later questioned if he had the right to bust the door down, he said we heard there was fighting going on inside the house. Yet obviously no fighting was going on. Was he in his legal right or has my fourth amendment been violated?

Asked on July 6, 2011 under Criminal Law, Missouri

Answers:

Mike Harvath / Harvath Law

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

     Hi.  I am a Missouri attorney that handles criminal defense issues and 4th amendment violation claims.  If the facts are as you state them to be, the prosecutors will have an uphill battle in proving that the required legal justification was present for the officer to enter the home without a search warrant.  If 4th amendment rights have been violated and this can be established, there is justification for any evidence obtained inside the house to be suppressed, and for the charges against you and the other occupants to be dismissed.  I have seen charges dismissed in the past when the police got over-zealous and committed an unreasonable search and seizure.  I am not sure what the charges are and what the violations resulting in the arrests were.  However, I would highly recommend consulting with a Missouri criminal defense attorney because, even if a true 4th amendment violation cannot be established, an attorney can very likely get the charges amended to something that will not substantially affect your criminal record, nor result in jail time.  Many charges, even seemingly minor ones, carry a sentence of potential jail time, in the event that a plea agreement is not negotiated with the prosecutors.

     I hope this helps to some extent.  For convenience, I can be reached by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at (314) 471-5585, including weekends.  Thank you.

NOTE: This answer is for educational purposes and does not constitute legal advice.  The use of this site does not establish an attorney-client relationship or privilege between the user and the attorney responding.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Legally, IF the officer had a reasonable basis, based on what he could legitimately perceive from outside your home, for his belief that there was fighting going on and hence lives were potentially in danger, he would be entitled to enter to address the situation and protect lives. That is so even if he as later found to be wrong, so long as his belief was legitimate and reasonable as of when he acted on it. Whether that was the case is a matter of the facts and circumstances; so the answer is, if the facts are more-or-less as the officer claimed, he well have been justified in what he did. Also, bear in mind that even if your 4th amendment rights were violated, there probably is no monetary recovery (compensation) for that, though it may be the case that any evidence found as a result of the improper entry cann be suppressed.


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