When local citizens hear about a huge drug trafficking ring bust taking place in their area, they may be shocked and automatically think that the people charged are in the wrong and deserve to be punished. However, the individuals who are accused of drug trafficking remain innocent unless and until proven guilty in Pennsylvania. It is up to the government to solidify why a charge is legitimate in this type of situation.
When area residents read about people being arrested and charged with possessing drugs, they might immediately view them as wrongdoers and lawbreakers. However, these people legally are not guilty unless this is proven in a court of law. The government in Pennsylvania absolutely has to meet its burden of proof when drug charges are in question.
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.
A criminal defendant faced seemingly daunting criminal charges for possession and intent to distribute three kilos of cocaine, charges that could result in 20 years in prison. Two police officers testified that they had seen the defendant place a bag containing the drugs on an apartment building fire escape. But the prosecutors dropped the charges after the judge found that the evidence against the man was not credible.