In the United States, The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution reads as follows:
“The right of the people 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.”
In simpler terms, this means a police officer is restricted from searching through your private space and belongings without a warrant and/or probable cause.
Although we have this right as Americans, it is often discarded as authorities partake in illegal searches and seize things that they know can be used against you in the court of law. In these instances, it is best to work with a criminal defense attorney because they can take steps in ensuring these things are dismissed in court, as any items seized during an illegal search cannot be used to convict you of a crime.
When the Fourth Amendment Won’t Protect You
This poses two questions:
“Did you have legitimate expectation of privacy as to the place searched and things seized?” & “Are you expectations objectively reasonable—that is, one that society is willing to recognize?”
Because the Fourth Amendment only applies if you have a “legitimate expectation of privacy”, it will offer no protection in instances where there are, by definition, no privacy issues.
For example, under the Fourth Amendment, no “search” has been conducted if a police officer stops you while you are in your car and happens to notice a weapon on the passenger seat. Even if you consider your passenger seat to be a private place, you are still out in the public and did not have it concealed in something private like luggage or a purse. Basically, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in this instance because it was in plain view.
On the other hand, if you were in a public place using a bathroom or a changing room, the police officer would not be able to use any camera footage or other things obtained in court as society would deem this as a place where we all expect privacy, making this a “search” under the Fourth Amendment.
Every situation is unique and it can become very complex when determining legitimate expectations of privacy under the Fourth Amendment. If you or a loved one have been apart of an illegal search or are unsure if your Fourth Amendment right was violated, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.
At Premier Federal Criminal Defenders, we work closely with you and use our years of experience to form the best possible defense strategy that is unique to your situation in order to protect your freedom. Call us today for a free consultation 1-800-455-6200.