What does the 4th Amendment Guarantee?

Much of our work as drunk driving defense attorneys involves defending your 4th Amendment rights. The 4th Amendment states that United States Citizens have the right to:

“Be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” 

The ultimate goal of the 4th Amendment is to protect people’s right to privacy and freedom from unreasonable intrusions by the government. Our founding fathers thought the right important enough to list it 4th in the Bill of Rights.

Prior to the Revolutionary War, American settlers frequently smuggled goods to avoid England’s taxes. In response, King George issued “writs of assistance”. These were legal search warrants that allowed agents of the King to enter someone’s property or home with no notice and without any reason. American settlers viewed these writs as an egregious affront and subsequently included the 4th Amendment in their bill of rights.

How does the 4th Amendment affect my OWI case?

In the context of a typical OWI case, the 4th Amendment is designed to guarantee that the police may not stop your vehicle without reasonable suspicion that a traffic offense or crime has occurred and that police may not arrest you without probable cause that a crime has occurred.

If the police violate your 4th Amendment rights, the typical remedy is for the court to suppress the evidence subsequent to the constitutional violation. Such evidence includes the result of your breath or blood test. Suppressed evidence is unavailable to the prosecution at trial. Typically, this means that the prosecution will voluntarily dismiss your drunk driving case as they no longer have the requisite evidence to win at trial.

With the potential dismissal of your case on the line, the drunk driving defense attorneys at Vanden Heuvel & Dineen strenuously defend your 4th Amendment rights. You need an OWI defense attorney well versed and up to date on Wisconsin’s 4th Amendment case law.

What is the current state of 4th Amendment case law in Wisconsin?

Recently, the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s protection of 4th Amendment rights has taken a troubling turn. As Justice Ann Walsh Bradley points out in her dissent in State v. Lewis O. Floyd, Jr., 2017 WI 78, ¶87:

“In the last two terms, this court is batting nearly zero when it comes to upholding Fourth Amendment challenges in criminal cases. Even if the challenge initially meets with success, it ultimately loses because of an asserted subsequent consent, or community caretaker exception or inevitable discovery rule, or whatever.”

This is deeply troubling. The need for 4th Amendment protections are as great now as they were at the time of the Revolution. Justice A.W. Bradley highlights this in her dissent:

“The Fourth Amendment’s protections, particularly its warrant requirement, are not some left over relics of the 18th century. Rather, they are as vital today as when they were created. Yet, I have concerns that the Fourth Amendment’s right of freedom from warrantless search and seizures has become a second class right, or worse, meaningless prose.” ¶88.

Meaningless prose. That’s a strong condemnation of the majority’s current feelings towards the 4th Amendment. Facing such odds, you need a persistent knowledgeable attorney on your side.

Why you need a tough experience OWI Defense Attorney to uphold your 4th Amendment rights

As Justice A.W. Bradley points out, courts are more willing than ever to refuse to suppress unlawfully obtained evidence. You need an attorney willing to tenaciously fight for your rights. If you’re unlawfully stopped or arrested you must the drunk driving defense attorneys at Vanden Heuvel & Dineen.