The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from illegal search and seizure. In other words, law enforcement officers are not permitted to search someone’s personal property or arrest them without probable cause. If an officer performs an unlawful search or arrests them illegally, the charges brought against that person may be dropped.
What does an officer need for a legal search and seizure?
Generally, an officer requires a valid search warrant or probable cause to search any area where a person has a legitimate expectation of privacy.
In order for a search warrant to be valid, the officer must have probable cause, or a reasonable belief that a crime was committed and that they will find evidence of the crime in that location. The warrant must specify what items will be seized, as well as mention the specific location of the search.
An officer may perform a search without a warrant if there is an emergency (risk to public safety or risk of losing evidence), the search connects to a legal arrest, or they have consent from the property owner. Also, under the plain view doctrine, officers are allowed to seize evidence of a crime in plain view, as long as the officer has a legal right to be there in the first place.
Probable cause is also necessary for an arrest
Probable cause is required for legal search and seizures but is also required for legal arrests. The officer must have probable cause, or reasonable belief that a crime has taken place and that the person he or she is arresting was involved in the crime. A mere hunch or feeling is not enough to constitute probable cause. An officer must base his or her reasoning for arrest on actual facts.
If you are facing criminal charges and your Fourth Amendment rights have been violated, it may be in your best interest to consult with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can review the circumstances surrounding your case and determine whether you were the victim of an illegal search and seizure and/or illegal arrest.