What Is Considered an Unlawful Search and Seizure?

One of the many rights afforded to American citizens under the United States Constitution is the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable government intrusion, specifically in regards to police searches and seizures. As a result of these protections, the police may only perform a search of your person, home, or vehicle under specific circumstances and in a manner that ensures these rights are respected. To help you understand the extent of your Fourth Amendment rights and protect yourself against unlawful search and seizure, our firm has put together a brief guide detailing what the police can and cannot do during a search.

  1. What is a “search?” – Under the purposes of the Fourth Amendment, for a police investigation to be considered a “search,” a court must conclude that the investigation intruded upon a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy. If a person does not have an expectation of privacy, or if this expectation is otherwise deemed to be unreasonable, no search has occurred. Simply put, if you have no expectation to privacy, the police may then search without question.
  2. When can the police search my property? – Property within your home, on your person, in your vehicle, or on other parts of your property is considered to be private. If the police wish to search for evidence on your property, they must first either receive your express consent or a warrant issued by a judge in order to legally do so.
  3. When is a warrant not needed? – There are several circumstances in which the police may conduct a search without your consent or a warrant. A search may be conducted in the event that a police officer should have a reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed, known as “probable cause.” Searches may also be conducted if immediate action is necessary to protect the public or to stop the destruction of evidence. Finally, the police may conduct a search of a person and their immediate surroundings following an arrest in order to ensure their safety.
  4. What does a warrant authorize? – If the police have a warrant, they may legally enter a person’s property without their permission and search for evidence listed on the warrant in specified places. For example, if a warrant authorizes the search of a person’s bathroom for illegal drugs, the police should confine their search to the bathroom only. If evidence suggests that there may be additional evidence nearby, or if the police suspect that evidence is being destroyed or that a suspect is attempting to escape, the police may widen their search beyond the parameters of the warrant.
  5. When can the police search my car? – During a traffic stop, the police may only search your vehicle if they have probable cause to suspect you are in possession of contraband, such as drugs or weapons. A Supreme Court ruling recently determined that the passenger compartment of a vehicle may only be searched if the arrested person is within reaching distance of it at the time of arrest, or if it is reasonable believe that the vehicle contains evidence relating to the arrested offense. If the vehicle is towed and impounded, however, the police may search it at their discretion.

Arrested? Contact Patton | Pittman Attorneys at Law

If you have been charged with a crime and believe your Fourth Amendment rights were violated by the police, get in touch with Patton | Pittman Attorney at Law today. With more than 75 years of combined legal experience, our powerful Clarksville criminal defense lawyers have the vast legal knowledge and resources to maximize your chances of securing a favorable outcome for your situation.

Call (931) 361-4477 or contact our office online today to discuss your situation.

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