The Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution places certain limits on the law enforcement authorities. These limits are the bedrock of the search-and-seizure law, and they exist to ensure your privacy and protect you against any unreasonable searches and seizures.
What Does The Fourth Amendment Say?
The law states that no search warrant shall be issued without a probable cause. The warrant is only valid if supported by a sworn affidavit and mentions the place/persons that are to be searched.
On the other hand, the Fourth Amendment does permit reasonable and lawful searches and seizures. If the police have reasonable cause to believe that they’ll find some evidence that verifies that you’ve committed a crime. This allows them to override your privacy concerns and search you, your belongings, and your documents. The search is also lawful if the circumstances justify it.
When Does The Fourth Amendment Not Protect You?
Another clause of the Fourth Amendment states that it only applies if the defendant has a ‘legitimate expectation of privacy.’ If there is no privacy expectation, the law offers no protection, and therefore there are no privacy issues.
To determine this, the court usually conducts a two-part test. The test revolves around two questions:
- Did the defendant expect any degree of privacy when the search was conducted?
- Is the defendant’s expectation objectively reasonable? Does society believe it to be objectively reasonable?
A Case Study
Let’s consider an example:
If you’re using a public restroom, you’d not want to be spied upon. This expectation of privacy is objectively reasonable. Therefore, if the police install a hidden video for a ‘search,’ the Fourth Amendment will protect you. Similarly, if an officer stops your car and notices a weapon on the passenger seat, the Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply. This is because society doesn’t necessarily consider your passenger seat to be a private space and the gun was in plain view.
Arguing with the authorities never bears any fruit. We recommend keeping your calm and being as polite as you can. Just because the search was illegal, you can’t expect the court to dismiss your case. We recommend leaving it to your attorney. They’ll help you present your case to the court.