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Can videos protect against warrantless police searches?

The Fourth Amendment protects against warrantless searches and seizures. In addition to that federal law, local jurisdictions may provide additional procedural rights.

For example, D.C. law requires police to have a warrant to arrest a suspect for an alleged misdemeanor crime that occurred before police arrived on the scene. The law also enumerates exceptions, such as when a defendant is a flight risk, dangerous, or about to destroy evidence.

Although these laws may seem clear, their application is not always as straight forward. In a recent example, a transgender defendant claims that police arrested her for an alleged misdemeanor, arising from a noise complaint.

The defendant alleges that two neighbors had knocked on her door, complaining about the noise from her dinner party. About ten minutes later, police arrived, accompanied by the neighbors, inquiring about an alleged assault. That escalated into the police entering the defendant’s apartment and arresting her.

Fortunately, one of the defendant’s friends recorded the exchange on video. That evidence may have persuaded the American Civil Liberties Union of the District of Columbia to file a lawsuit against the police and the District, alleging an unlawful warrantless arrest, including a warrantless entry into the defendant’s apartment.

Our Virginia criminal defense law firm understands how important it is to uphold one’s constitutional rights. Police must be held accountable for unjustified warrantless searches or entries, and any evidence obtained from that illegal activity should not be entered into the evidentiary record.

If you are facing criminal charges, make sure you seek representation from an experienced criminal defense attorney. Our law firm will fight to safeguard your procedural rights.

Source: Washington Post, “ACLU sues D.C. police for warrantless arrest of transgender activist,” Ann E. Marimow, Feb. 28, 2017

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