What Are Valid Warrant Requirements
Recently Fulton County Prosecutors tried to obtain records of the ex-cop charged with murder in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks. Brook’s death lead to riots in Atlanta and Fulton County. The State was oddly trying to obtain records of donations to a fundraising account set up by the Georgia Law Enforcement Organization, a non-profit organization, that set-up an account on it’s website to defend Rolfe against the murder charges. To date, approximately $500,000 has been raised on the site. The District Attorney argued they wanted the information from the fundraising site to argue that Rolfe may try to skip bail. The judge the case found that the State lacked probable cause to issue a warrant and denied the prosecutions request for a warrant. Here is an article by the Atlanta Journal Constitution detailing the warrant request by the Fulton County DA, the response by Rolfe’s criminal defense attorneys, and the judge’s reasoning in the warrant denial: https://www.ajc.com/news/fulton-da-is-denied-warrant-to-probe-garrett-rolfe-fundraising-site/RL2U53UULVET5NW5N2ESYJKDHI/
This begs the question, what are valid warrant requirements in Georgia. The Fourth Amendment of The United States Constitution prohibits unlawful and unreasonable search and seizures by the police or government. The 4th Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights, and is one of the basic Rights American’s have to protect themselves against unwarranted and overreaching government abuses of power. The Bill of Rights are the first Ten Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The 4th Amendment states,
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Exceptions to the Warrant Requirements
Some searches are legal without a warrant, or a warrant exception will apply. However, in the Rolfe case no search warrant exceptions would apply. Some search warrant exceptions are listed below:
- Incident to an arrest
- Plain view
- Exigent circumstances
Police officers may search someone they are arresting and the immediate vicinity. The reasons for this exception are pretty obvious, a police officer must know if an individual is armed or is carrying or concealing evidence or illegal contraband(illegal goods). Officers may likewise seize illegal goods in plain view. This warrant exception is also fairly obvious. No reason a police officer should not be able to seize illegal goods he can see with his own eyes. There are some exceptions to this rule however, like if a police officer viewed a marijuana plant in the window of a home, he would still be required to obtain a warrant in order to seize the marijuana plant and/or make an arrest. For instance, if a car is legally stopped, anything obviously illegal, like a bag of marijuana on the passenger seat, or a blunt in the ashtray, could be seized and the owner arrested because the illegal goods(contraband), were in plain view and obviously illegal. The exigent circumstances warrant exception is necessary for police officers to act swiftly in a situation where evidence may be destroyed, or someone’s life may be in immediate danger. This exception is used in emergency situations and there is not enough time to secure a valid warrant. Consent is another warrant exception and is also fairly obvious. If you give consent to search anything the officer finds as a result of the search is properly seized and may be used against you in court. However, what constitutes valid consent is often serious issue. Consent must be freely given by a criminal defendant. The Court will look at all the circumstances surrounding the alleged consent. It is up to the State to prove consent was voluntarily given. The State may also not exceed the limits of a reasonably understood consent.
What is Probable Cause
In any search warrant application, it must first be decided if probable cause exists in order to issue a warrant. Probable cause is sufficient reason that a crime has been committed or that certain property is connected with a crime based upon know facts at the time. Probable cause must exists prior to searches, arrests or seizures. Unfortunately, probable cause is often a subjective belief.
It is fairly clear that no probable cause existed in the Rolfe case as mentioned above. The Court was absolutely correct in denying the illegal overreach by the Fulton County Prosecutors trying to obtain information regarding the defense fund established by the non-profit organization for Rolfe’s defense. There is simply no evidence of a crime or that the defense account harbored evidence of a crime. It was a fishing expedition, likely targeting the people who are donating for Rolfe’s defense. This is exactly the kind of Unconstitutional overreach and abuse of power the 4th Amendment is designed to protect. It’s worth noting that the criminal lawyers for Rolfe have filed a motion to have the head DA in Fulton County removed from the case already as well.
What Happens if the Police Violate Your 4th Amendment Rights
The exclusionary rule provides that if your legal Rights are violated, the evidence against you will be excluded from any prosecution against you. The fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine even extends the exclusionary rule to any evidence that was derived from illegally obtained evidence must be excluded from evidence against you in any prosecution. This often means that the prosecution will be dismissed.
Georgia Search & Seizure Law
This is a very brief overview of Georgia’s search and seizure laws. Only an experienced criminal defense attorney can advise you on whether or not the police or government actor violated your Rights. Also every case is unique and requires a complete understanding of all the facts and circumstances surrounding your case. If you or a loved one are facing a criminal charge, and facing the power of the State or Federal Government, be sure to contact my office today. I will personally advise you on your Rights and whether or not the police or other government agency violated your Constitutionally protected Rights against unlawful search and seizure. I have fought for criminal defendants in courts in Atlanta and throughout Georgia for 25 years. I have successfully represented thousands of defendants. Don’t just take my word for it, read my reviews here.
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