The Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution protect Americans and Texans from unreasonable searches and seizures performed in the course of a criminal investigation. Generally, evidence that has been seized by law enforcement in violation of the Fourth Amendment cannot be admitted in a criminal prosecution. This exclusionary rule encourages law enforcement officers to follow the constitution or else risk losing the opportunity to obtain a conviction for criminal conduct. There are exceptions to the Fourth Amendment, and it is possible for a defendant to be convicted upon evidence that was found after an illegal and unconstitutional search. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals recently reversed a lower appellate decision that had thrown out a man’s conviction for possession of methamphetamine based on an illegal search.
The defendant in the recently decided appeal was stopped by law enforcement for failing to have a valid registration for his vehicle. After the stop, the officer attempted to perform an investigative “pat-down” of the defendant, at which point the defendant resisted the officer. Based on the defendant’s resisting the search, he was placed under arrest, and methamphetamine was found at the arrest scene. The defendant was charged with drug possession. Before trial, the defendant attempted to suppress the drug evidence found at the scene of the arrest, arguing that the “pat-down” was not a constitutional search.
The trial court agreed that the search was not legal, however, they rejected the defendant’s motion nonetheless, determining that the defendant’s unlawful conduct of resisting the search was an independent crime that resulted in the drugs being seized.