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Fourth Amendment Police Searches, Colorado Search and Seizure Law

On Behalf of | Dec 28, 2016 | Police |

Police Search and Seizure Law Under the 4th Amendment to U.S. Constitution

At the federal level, the 10th Circuit is the appeals court for many federal district courts, like the District Court for the District of Colorado. The appeals court decides whether judges at the District Court level have made a mistake in their legal decisions. An important 4th Amendment case was decided by the Tenth Circuit recently. This decision will provide law to lesser courts and for law Police officers throughout the country. The name of this important appeals case was Vasquez v. Lewis and Jimerson.

Investigatory Stops by Police in Adams County, Arapahoe County, Colorado, and Beyond

In this appeals case, two Kansas Highway Patrolmen pulled over Mr. Vasquez, because they could not see his car’s temporary license plate through the window tinting. After talking with him and learning that his temporary plate was valid, they questioned him extensively and would not let him leave. They eventually brought a drug sniffing dog to the location, and still did not discover anything. Finally, they searched Mr. Vasquez’ car for drugs, but found nothing. Mr. Vasquez later sued, alleging that is constitutional rights had been violated by the Highway Patrolmen’s refusal to let him leave and for searching his car without justification. The District Court dismissed the lawsuit, but the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal, finding that the Patrol Officers did not have a valid reason to keep, detain and search Mr. Vasquez and his car.  Without a search warrant, they should have let him leave.

Search and Seizure Under Denver, Colorado Law and the U.S. Constitution’s 4th Amendment

The Appeals Court noted well established law that the Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. For the Court to determine whether a traffic stop was unreasonable, they look at “(1) whether the stop was justified at its inception; and (2) whether the officer’s actions during the detention were reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified the interference in the first place.” While the initial stop of Mr. Vasquez was justified, the actions of the officers following the stop were not. An investigative detention in Denver, like the stop, must be temporary so as to fulfill the purposes of the legal stop, and narrowly conducted. The police officers must possess a particularized and objective basis for suspecting criminal activity in order to expand the scope of the investigation. Here, the court found the officers unlawfully expanded the scope of the stop without a particularized and objective suspicion.

Automobile and Car Searches by Police in Jefferson County and Douglas County- When & How

We can take away many helpful principles of search and seizure law from this case. A car and automobile stop by police needs to be done promptly and not with delay to expand the purpose of the stop unless there is a real reason for suspecting a crime is being committed. A hunch is not enough and officers can’t use the stop as a pretext for searching someone’s car because they think he “might” be up to no good. Police in Jefferson County and Douglas County must have a good reason to search a car if they don’t have the driver’s permission. In legal terms, to hold you or conduct a search following a valid traffic stop, Castle Rock Police and Lakewood Police must have a “reasonable suspicion of illegal activity”.  Here, they had none.

Remedy and Solution for 4th Amendment Violation by Aurora Police in Colorado? Suppression of Evidence and Money Damages

When Colorado police in Aurora and other cities violate Forth Amendment law during traffic stops, they can be sued for money damages under what is called a 1983 action. In addition, if police do find something illegal, in the criminal case to follow, that evidence will be suppressed – or kept out of the case. The jury will not be allowed to learn of it. This effectively results in the dismissal of the case due to the constitutional violation by police.

Police do not always follow the law. Many are overly zealous in an effort to stop crime or advance their careers.  If you feel like your constitutional rights are being violated by police or a deputy sheriff, call our criminal defense attorneys at 303-731-0719. Together, we can protect your future.

Image Credit: Pixabay – wynpnt