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Can the Police Just Search and Use Contraband They Find to Charge You?

No.

So, you catch a charge. You may have been questioned by police and given an inconsistent statement or confessed. The police may have searched you or your vehicle and found drugs. What does this mean for your case? Is the evidence stacked against you or is there a way to turn your case around? The answer lies in whether the police violated your Fourth Amendment Right1 against illegal search and seizure or your Fifth Amendment Right to remain silent. This blog explores the rules the police must follow under the Constitution and suppression of evidence (what is found or what you say) illegally obtained. Suppressed evidence cannot be used against you to continue the criminal case, meaning the prosecutor may plea down the case or dismisses it all together.

First, with traffic stops, the police must have a valid legal basis to stop you, whether you are in a vehicle or on foot. When considering whether a stop was legal, relevant defense questions are whether the police observed a traffic violation, such as speeding, or running a red light. If police receive information that a crime has already been committed, an individual can be detained for questioning. However, there are certain requirements for this detention to be lawful, and the length of the detention must be reasonable. Where there is a question, a suppression motion may be filed.

Second, the police must have probable cause to conduct a search of your person or your vehicle. Typically, searches of a person’s residence require a warrant signed by a judge, but the search must be limited to the confines of the warrant. If proper procedure is not followed during a search, or the circumstances did not justify the search, the evidence obtained by the police can be excluded from use at trial. These cases are very fact sensitive, so it is crucial to have a skilled defense lawyer to identify potential suppression issues. These types of searches are governed by the Fourth Amendment.

Third, if an arrest is made, or a person is detained such that he or she is not free to leave, the police must advise the suspect of certain rights and warn the suspect of the consequences of any waiver of those rights. This is called a Miranda warning. This ensures that the suspect does not unknowingly make an incriminating statement to police. Many people in this situation feel obligated to talk to the police or compelled to make a statement, either to deny involvement, or in hopes the police will be more lenient or can explain the matter away. It is usually unwise and a mistake in judgment not to invoke your right to remain silent and have an attorney before making any form of statement to police, no matter what your involvement. However, if you do happen to make a statement to the police and proper procedure has not been followed, the statement can be suppressed by the court, which makes it unavailable for use against you by the prosecutor.

Whatever the facts and legal issues in your specific case, identification and moving to suppress illegally obtained evidence may be the difference between dismissal and conviction. Freedom or incarceration. Even if suppression is denied, you can get a sneak peek at the prosecutor’s case in the suppression hearing. This can assist you in determining whether to pursue trial or attempt to negotiate a plea agreement. In addition, a suppression motion erroneously denied maybe a basis for an interlocutory appeal or appeal following conviction, leading to reversal. Choose your defense counsel wisely in navigating criminal cases. If you do not raise a proper suppression issue, it is waived and cannot be brought up later.

Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates to defend clients throughout Indiana, which sometimes requires moving to suppress evidence. We hope you find this blog helpful in your understanding of how your criminal case could be impacted (or dismissed) if police do not follow the rules and violate your constitutional rights during their investigation and/or your detention. You and your counsel must carefully understand your case and analyze it in the context of your constitutional rights to determine if there is a suppression issue. This blog post is written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. for educational purposes only. The blog is not intended as legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is advertising material.


  1. A good case explaining suppression is Malone v. State, 882 N.E.2d 784 (Ind.Ct.App.2008).
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