Under the Fourth Amendment, a search occurs when a police investigation extends to a person or property over which the suspect has a reasonable expectation of privacy. This can be difficult to determine but courts usually try to decide of members of society at large would think it is reasonable to expect a certain amount of privacy.
The Fourth Amendment applies in many situations involving law enforcement. It can come into play during a traffic stop, when police enter a home to make an arrest, when they enter a business or apartment to look for evidence or during a traffic stop.
Any evidence collected during an unlawful search or seizure can be challenged in court and potentially thrown out of criminal proceedings. In order to conduct a valid search, the police must either get a search warrant or establish “probable cause” that an individual has committed a crime.
The Fourth Amendment also provides some protections of suspects’ automobiles. Police may frisk motorists during a traffic stop if they have reasonable suspicion that the driver is armed or has contraband materials. Officers may search a vehicle that they have impounded or towed, but they may not impound a vehicle for the sole purpose of searching it.
If you are facing criminal charges or feel that your rights have been violated in the criminal justice system, it is essential to work with a criminal defense attorney experienced in related matters. They can help you protect your essential constitutional rights and work for the best possible outcome in your case.
Source: FindLaw, “Illegal Search and Seizure FAQs”
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