What is the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution? It works to protect individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures by government agents. However, this does not make it so that citizens are protected from all searches and seizures – just ones that are unjustly unreasonable. This means that law enforcement officers are not permitted to search in locations where the individual has a legitimate expectation of privacy, such as in a home or a vehicle. Seizures, on the other hand, occur when a citizen is physically apprehended by a police officer such as in during an arrest. However, it could happen just as easily to a pedestrian or at a traffic stop.
So, what constitutes a reasonable search? If a search or seizure is unreasonable, then it will be considered illegal by the law. This means that, if damaging evidence is found through the illegal search and seizure, it can be prevented from being used in court against the defendant. This occurs through something known as the “exclusionary rule.” The Supreme Court has worked for years trying to establish the rules that regard how “reasonable” a search and seizure truly is.
Illegal Searches and Warrants
So what amount of protection is afforded to a particular individual? This really depends on the nature of the detention, the characteristics of the location searched, and the circumstances surrounding the search. Many protections can arise given the circumstance. For instance, look at a situation where a person is stopped on a sidewalk, pulled over for a minor traffic violation, or arrested in their home. Without probable cause, the law enforcement officer to search the premises must obtain a legal warrant.
Not every search will be an illegal search if a search warrant is obtained. However, you may ask yourself, will a search warrant be required for every search? The answer is “no.” Here are some of the ways in which a law enforcement officer will not need to obtain a search warrant beforehand:
- Consent: What happens if the police show up at your door and ask you to search your premises? What if you say yes? If you tell them they can, then they are free to conduct the search.
- Emergency: In the case of an emergency situation, such as to find an armed suspect that may be inside your home, a search warrant may not be needed. This is solely based on the fact that other residents could be at risk.
- Arrest: If someone has been arrested by the police due to illegal behavior, the police may be able to conduct a search in order to find weapons or illegal drugs.
- Plain View: If there is evidence in plain view, the police will not need a search warrant to seize said evidence.
What To Do If Your Rights Were Violated
So, what happens if a law enforcement officer violates your rights in order to obtain evidence against you? It may be deemed unlawful by the court and not be used against you. If you have been arrested even though your Fourth Amendment rights were violated and there was no probable cause, then it will be kept out of the case. However, you should have a defense attorney on your side that can protect your rights during this time. At The Law Office of Peter Blair, we can help you fight your case. Call today for more information on where to begin.