The Rules Of Search And Seizure: What You Need To Know

In the United States, there are a number of limits that are placed on police forces by the 4th amendment. Searches and seizures are not something that police can do willy-nilly, whenever they deem it fit. There are certain situations in which police cannot perform searches and seizures, and if they do, the evidence which they have discovered may be inadmissible in a court of law. What are these rules and restrictions, however? Throughout the course of this brief article, you will learn what they are.

Privacy Protection

The 4th amendment aims to protect your privacy. As part and parcel of this amendment, it provides restrictions on searches and seizures and does not legally allow for unreasonable seizes and searches by law enforcement agents and agencies.

However, reasonable searches and seizures are permitted. What constitutes a reasonable search and seizure? Generally speaking, there are two items that allow for a search and seizure to be considered "reasonable". These are: (1) There is probable cause that you have perpetrated a crime and a warrant is issued for the search and seizure or (2) the circumstances allow for the police to search and seize items from your person due to any contingent or peculiar justifications.

When Does The 4th Amendment Not Protect You?

There are several instances where the 4th amendment will simply not provide you with Constitutional coverage. There has to be what is legally considered a legitimate expectation of privacy. What does this mean, however?

The court usually applies a 2-part test to determine whether the defendant had an expectation of privacy for the thing that was searched or the object that was seized. This test operates as such:

(1) was there an expectation of privacy regarding the seized object involved? And (2) was that person's expectation legitimate?

In other words, would most people in a rational society agree that this person's expectation was something that they should expect? One of the examples that is usually used by individuals attempting to typify this situation is the fact that people do not expect to seen when using a public restroom. As such, the use of video cameras in a community bathroom violates a person's legitimate expectation of privacy.

On the other side, if a police officer pulls over an individual for speeding, and they see a gun in the front seat of the car in question, although the person who was speeding might consider this area private, a reasonable individual wouldn't consider that a search took place to begin with, considering that the gun was simply visible in plain sight. As such, one could not bank on the defense an expectation of privacy in this case.

For more information, contact Ewbank & Kramer or a similar firm.