Police are required to have different levels of justification, per the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, to briefly contact a citizen legally. If they do not meet the standard of justification, they lose the right to use the evidence in court. If illegal, the evidence will be thrown out of court and may not be used against a citizen.
This is referred to as the " Fruit of the Poisonous Tree " doctrine. The principle involved is that if items of evidence ( fruits ), i.e., drugs, weapons, stolen items, etc. were illegally obtained by the police ( the poisonous tree ), then the police or the District Attorney may not use the evidence. This rule is designed to discourage law enforcement from illegally gathering evidence by preventing them from using the evidence to convict someone.
This rule applies in Santa Rosa, Napa, Lakeport, Ukiah, and Eureka.
There are three basic types of police/civilian encounters:
First, and the least severe, is a short consensual encounter between police and citizens. If a policeman approaches a person, without stopping them, they can ask that person if they are willing to answer some questions. This is referred to as a consensual encounter and does not require any specific justification.
Second, the police can make a brief stop of a person for investigation, however, the stop must be supported by an " articulable suspicion that a crime has been committed or is being committed and that is reasonable". Under the law, once a person is stopped, they are "seized" and, as such, the police have to prove that they had an " articulable suspicion" to justify the stop or seizure.
Third, the police may make an arrest but the arrest must be supported by " probable cause" which is generally construed by the courts to mean that the police possess information that makes it more probable than not that the arrested individual has committed or is committing a crime.
A consensual encounter can evolve into a seizure of the individual, if the police either by physical force or buy a show of authority, restrain the liberty of an individual, or restrict their movement. A person is "restrained" if in view of all the circumstances surrounding the incident, (1) a reasonable person would not believe that they are free to leave, and (2) the person submits to the police restraint. This is referred to as a "detention".
In the event that a person is detained, they are now protected by the Fourth Amendment. If the police detain someone, then they are required to justify that detention in order to use any evidence that was discovered as a result of that detention.
A criminal defense attorney is definitely required to make the complicated analysis as to which evidence may be suppressed or thrown out of court. A Motion to Suppress, pursuant to Penal Code 1538.5, may be the most important defense to consider in every case. Remember, successful criminal defense is often not based on whether someone did the crime but, rather, whether a District Attorney can prove the criminal charges without crucial evidence that has been suppressed as a result of illegal police activity.
Remember, Ronald Dinan and Associates, is a firm of experienced and aggressive criminal defense lawyers who can help in achieving the best outcome in your case. Many times criminal case dispositions will include reduction or outright dismissal of the number and/or severity of criminal charges, diversion programs, probation, reduced fines with installment payments, alternatives to jail, etc.