Search and Seizure
Search and seizure is the legal term used to describe a law enforcement agent’s examination of a person’s home, vehicle, or business to find evidence that a crime has been committed. If evidence is found, the agent may then “seize” it. Search and seizure also includes placing an individual under arrest.
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects our right to privacy by prohibiting unreasonable intrusions into our personal property. In order to uphold these rights, the legislature and the courts created legal safeguards to allow officers to interfere with a person’s Fourth Amendment rights only under specific conditions.
So what protections are you given by the Fourth Amendment? You are protected from being detained or arrested without a valid reason
. The police may not search your items or property where you would have a recognized expectation of privacy. These may include your purse, clothing, car, hotel room, house, or business.
The Fourth Amendment prevents items that are seized unlawfully from being entered into evidence in a criminal case. However, the amount of protection available in a case is dependent upon the nature of the search or arrest as well as the circumstances under which the property was searched.
In order to search a person or property, a law enforcement agent must have a valid search or arrest warrant.
There are exceptions to the rule that a warrant must be obtained before performing a search. For example, if a person gives voluntary consent to the officer, the search is legal. There are also some cases where a third party who is in charge of the property may give consent (i.e., hotel management).
If the officer does not have a warrant but has probable cause to believe that a person committed a crime, he or she may then perform a search.
In cases where an officer violates a person’s Fourth Amendment rights, and the search and/or seizure is found unlawful, the evidence will be kept out of the criminal case. This means that if a person’s home was searched, but there was no search warrant or other circumstances that would have justified the search and seizure, any evidence gathered during that time will not be allowed in court.