The fourth amendment protects citizens from unlawful search and seizure. This means that government officials and police cannot search your belongings without certain conditions.
It is essential to understand how this amendment protects your rights, and what exclusions exist.
When are search warrants needed?
According to FindLaw, police officers must have a warrant to search your private property in most cases. There are exclusions to this rule, however, such as the following:
- You consent to the search
- Criminal evidence is within plain view
- An emergency requires an immediate search without a warrant
- The police search your person after your arrest
Aside from these situations, you have the right to tell the police that they cannot search your private property without a warrant.
What does the law consider private property?
The law states that private property includes places where you would reasonably expect to have privacy. Your home, vehicle and purse fall under private property. Certain things that you may expect to be private, however, are not.
For example, the police do not need a warrant to search your outside trash can on the street curb.
What happens to evidence obtained illegally?
If a police officer searches your private property illegally and finds evidence of a crime, laws exist that can prevent that evidence from being upheld in court. Additionally, officers may not use the illegal finding of evidence to find more evidence.
When it comes to search and seizure laws it is important to understand when you have the right to say no and when an officer is acting in an illegal matter. This knowledge may help you avoid unjust charges, should they arise.