Every U.S. citizen has constitutional rights. The Fourth Amendment safeguards your privacy and guarantees the right to be free from unreasonable government interference with one’s person, property, home, and business. The courts have implemented certain protections to ensure that law enforcement personnel can only interfere with these rights under special circumstances. Even then, certain protocols must be observed.
What the Fourth Amendment Protects
Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful search and seizure include:
- A police officer’s physical apprehension of a person by stopping or arresting them
- Police searches of items and places that involve a legitimate expectation of privacy, such as your person, clothing, house, apartment, etc.
The Fourth Amendment also prevents unlawfully seized items from being used as evidence against you in a criminal prosecution.
The extent of your Fourth Amendment protection depends on the nature of your arrest or detention, the circumstances under which you were searched, and the particulars of the place searched.
When the Fourth Amendment Applies
The Fourth Amendment provides constitutional protection in situations such as the following:
- The police stop you for questioning
- You are pulled over for a minor traffic violation and the police officer searches your car
- You are arrested
- Police officers enter your home to arrest you or search for evidence of a crime
- Police officers confiscate your property
In most instances the police may not search or seize you or your property unless they have a valid search or arrest warrant or “probable cause” to believe that you have committed a crime.
When your constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment are violated, any evidence deriving from that search and seizure will be kept out of any criminal proceedings against you. For example:
- If you are arrested without a valid warrant or probable cause support, that arrest is unlawful and any evidence, even a confession, cannot be used against you.
- If the police search your home without a warrant and there are no special circumstances that justify the search, any evidence obtained cannot be used in any subsequent criminal case.
The Fourth Amendment provides important protection to Americans. It’s especially important if you or a loved one are under investigation for a crime. If you’re facing this situation, or if you have questions about your rights to privacy as they pertain to police investigation, we can help. Please contact us today for more information!