When a federal, state or local law enforcement agency wants to search somebody's home or property in Pittsburgh, they generally must get a search warrant first. The principle behind this is to prevent police from conducting random searches of people's homes with little to no pretext. Our nation was founded on the idea of limited police powers and the Fourth Amendment in the Bill of Rights helps enshrine this principle with its warrant requirement.
Back on March 6, we discussed a pair of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court that could have a big impact on police powers in Pittsburgh versus the Fourth Amendment's search warrant requirement to prevent random, unlimited government searches of people and their personal property. The cases were heard by the Court simultaneously because they both involved police in the same state using a police dog to search for drugs without a warrant.
How much and under what circumstances should police in Pittsburgh and across the U.S. be empowered to search your home or vehicle based on a police dog's nose? That was the question before the Supreme Court last year when it heard oral arguments in two cases involving warrantless police searches justified by dog sniffs. In its first ruling on the cases, the Court unanimously ruled that an accidental identification of drug paraphernalia was rightfully allowed in court -- even though studies have strongly questioned whether dogs actually can be trained to alert police to the presence of illegal drugs.
A search warrant executed by police on attendants of a Fayette County music festival in 2009 was too broad and violated the Fourth Amendment, a federal judge ruled on Aug. 31. Under the principle of the exclusionary rule, the decision will likely exclude evidence of drugs police allegedly found on the concert goers.
A resident of a Pittsburgh suburb whose drug charges were thrown out after it was proven the arresting police officers lied on the arrest affidavit has filed a lawsuit against the officers and the City of Pittsburgh. In the lawsuit, the man says his Constitutional rights were violated by the arrest, which revealed dozens of false arrest affidavits filed by the officers but no criminal charges against either man.
Under Pennsylvania law, for a police officer pull over a car, he or she must have a reasonable and articulable ground to suspect that the car's occupants have committed or are committing a crime. This standard is found in the state code and is based on the Fourth Amendment's prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures.
In Pennsylvania and across the nation, citizens suspected of crimes are protected by the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. One of the core principles of the Fourth Amendment is the right of citizens to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. In practice, this means that law enforcement authorities cannot use illegally obtained evidence against people facing criminal charges.
When the people of Pennsylvania ratified the Bill of Rights in 1790, they approved the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects people suspected of crimes in Pennsylvania and the other 49 states from unreasonable searches and seizures. Generally, this means that law enforcement officers need a search warrant to enter a suspect's home and evidence that is gathered in violation of the Fourth Amendment is thrown out of court. However, there is an exception to the requirement for a warrant known as exigent circumstances.
Recently, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania heard an interesting appeal involving the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The appeal involved a Pennsylvania man's 10-year sentence on theft and firearms charges, and whether the evidence used against him should have been suppressed.
Pittsburgh's own Wiz Khalifa was arrested in North Carolina Monday evening after a concert at East Carolina University's campus. Police raided his tour bus during a concert and found about 57.5 grams (about two ounces) of marijuana on board. Court records state Khalifa is being charged with trafficking in marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana.