Broadcasting illegal activity is nothing new, but with social media’s prevalence the desire for virtual fame continues to inspire ill-advised behavior. The mannequin challenge is an internet phenomenon where amateurs create a video of actors staging a scene of still-as-mannequin participants: an enhanced scene of living statues. In Huntsville, AL, one such scene inspired a search warrant and several high stakes drugs and weapons charges.
The video in discussion is a Hollywood-style shootout staged with at least 22 people and 19 guns in the short clip. The elaborate guns ablaze scene features actors perched behind cars, trashcans and more, most with firearms raised. When it went viral, the local sheriff’s office took note. The house was identifiable in the clip, which led to a search warrant concerning the weapons. Finding drugs and unlicensed firearms inside, authorities made several arrests.
In this example, the actors are on film, holding weapons in plain sight. With a search warrant, the local authorities discovered contraband in the house. The video supplied reason for a search, with the primary evidence discovered via warrant. The mannequin challenge has a “caught in the act” feel but legal rights are never so simple. Even with a popular video online, individuals remain innocent until proven guilty.
The mannequin challenge certainly makes criminal defense more challenging, but it’s not foolproof. With so many participants in the video, the prosecution must prove ownership and possession. Some in the video are hiding and out of plain sight, making it hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt who was involved. It’s possible that the guns in the video were not the guns inside in the house, meaning some actors may not be implicated.
The primary role of a criminal defense attorney is to protect citizens’ rights, making sure that police follow the correct procedures. Gathering evidence for court is part of an officer’s job, but it must respect privacy in line with the Constitution. When an illegal search determines arrest, the findings are inadmissible in court. Even search warrants aren’t always administered correctly.
In Huntsville, the video itself was a creative act, not an illegal one. It was the behavior and contraband in the video that led to a search warrant. While the video will surface in the courtroom, the charges go far beyond the minute-and-a-half clip. The major evidence was discovered with a warrant. A skilled criminal defense attorney will put forth every effort to protect individual rights on any search and seizure, upholding individual rights amid serious charges.
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