PASSIONATE DEFENSE REPRESENTATION

Let's Change The Outcome

Is Your Door Lock Protected By The Fourth Amendment?

Seemingly good detective work sometimes crosses a line. Police must follow leads and clues and hunches to solve crimes, but they also must follow the law.

A federal appeals court recently ruled that police went too far when they inserted a key into a door to determine if their suspect lived there. The government argued that it was a lawful investigative tactic. The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, saying that trying the lock was an unlawful search under the Fourth Amendment.

Police used suspect’s own keys as basis for a search warrant

Police officers in Massachusetts found a set of keys on a man they arrested outside an apartment building. The investigators then tried the keys in three apartment doors until they found one that fit. That investigative “bingo” was used to obtain a warrant to search the apartment unit. Upon executing the warrant, police recovered drugs, a gun and other evidence of criminal activity.

The defense moved to suppress the evidence as the fruit of an unlawful search, but the trial court denied the motion. The man was convicted at trial of several drug offenses plus a charge of felon in possession of a firearm, resulting in a mandatory 15-year prison term. He appealed the conviction and sentence.

In United States v. Yrvens Bain, the First Circuit declared that police violated the Fourth Amendment by testing his key in the lock. The court said the act constituted a search, and that the search was unlawful because it breached the privacy of the resident(s). The judges likened the intrusion to going door-to-door with drug-sniffing dogs to fish for incriminating evidence.

A legal victory … sort of

Although the appeals court declared that a door lock is protected under the Fourth Amendment, it did not reverse the conviction. The First Circuit upheld the incriminating evidence as obtained in good faith despite the flaws in the underlying warrant. The “vindication” did not ultimately help the defendant in his case, but the ruling will bolster future defenses when police illegally penetrate the “curtilage” of a citizen’s residence.

The Fourth Amendment is our most powerful defense against unreasonable searches, seizures and arrests. Police and prosecutors routinely overstep their bounds, perhaps in good faith but sometimes in defiant disregard for the constitutional rights of the accused.

CATEGORIES

Recent Posts

How can a DUI conviction impact my commercial driver’s license?

On Behalf of Ryan Beasley Law | Apr 8, 2022 | Drunk Driving | Commercial vehicles are a common sight on the South Carolina roads. Trucks go to, from and through the state delivering and carting items that are vital to everyday life. This can include food, materials,...

What defenses are there for domestic violence charges?

Every relationship has times when you and your partner will disagree. An argument can feel very after both parties have had a chance to cool off than it does while it is happening. In some cases, a disagreement can get out of hand or misinterpreted, leaving both...

How a DUI can threaten your college education

College is an exciting time for young adults. Newfound independence often comes with having to make important decisions on your own, including whether to drink and drive. Unfortunately, millions of college students choose to drive while intoxicated. While you may be...

Bill could lead to harsher penalties after fentanyl overdoses

In South Carolina and across the United States, opioids are garnering significant attention. This is understandable given the number of people who are having problems with these types of drugs. Specifically, fentanyl is drawing scrutiny from state and federal law...

Do you know the importance of jury selection in your case?

There’s a lot to consider when building your criminal defense. While you may want to work with prosecutors early on to try to mitigate the fallout from your case, and you certainly want to gather evidence that contradicts the prosecution’s case, you can’t neglect the...

Do You Need Legal Advice? Don’t Wait.

Get Help Now

I

Visit Our VIDEO CENTER To Find Out More