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Home > Blog > Criminal Defense > State Constitutions Protect Your Rights, Too
Jun 20, 2016

State Constitutions Protect Your Rights, Too

One of the biggest jobs of a criminal defense attorney is to protect you from unreasonable searches, or improper seizures. Your right to be free from these government intrusions into your life is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, in the Fourth Amendment. However, as a resident of Maine, you are not only protected by the U.S. Constitution – you’re also protected by the Maine Constitution, as well.

State Constitutions – Another Layer of Protection from Government Intrusions

Every state in the U.S. has its own constitution. All of these constitutions include a unique blend of individual rights that are already in the U.S. Constitution, along with new ones that are unique to that state. For example, the Ohio Constitution includes not only a provision that exactly mirrors the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, but also a unique provision that prohibits a law from ever being made that limits the amount of money that can be recovered in a wrongful death lawsuit.

State Protections Are Not Duplicative

The state constitution of nearly every state independently guarantees the rights that the U.S. Constitution protects. However, while it might seem duplicative to have a state guarantee the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures when the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does the exact same thing, in reality, it can make a huge difference.

To understand why this is the case, you can think of the U.S. Constitution as a floor – it sets the minimum standard when it comes to your individual rights. Therefore, law enforcement cannot intrude on your individual rights any more than the U.S. Constitution allows. However, states are free to provide stronger protections than the U.S. Constitution allows, guaranteeing extra rights, or strengthening the rights that the federal constitution provides.

An Example – Sobriety Checkpoints

An excellent example of how this can work is through sobriety checkpoints. The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches or seizures. However, a sobriety checkpoint has been deemed to be a reasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment.

Despite this, some states have decided to guarantee their citizens extra individual rights by prohibiting sobriety checkpoints. For example, the Supreme Court of Minnesota read their state’s version of the Fourth Amendment – which has some of the exact same language as the federal version – and decided that a sobriety checkpoint was an unreasonable seizure that violated their state constitution.

Maine Criminal Defense Attorney William T. Bly

Your constitutional rights come from two distinct sources – the federal constitution and the state constitution. Experienced criminal defense attorneys, like William T. Bly, know how to tap into both of these sources to protect you during a criminal investigation that threatens to take away your liberty.

If you have been charged with a crime in the state of Maine, such as OUI, a drug crime, or a white collar offense, contact the Biddeford law office of William T. Bly online, or at (207) 571-8146.

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