Most people are aware that the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects them from unreasonable searches. This includes searches of their property as well as their person. Along with this, police officers are prohibited from making unlawful arrests, also known as seizures.

Despite the fact that this sounds straightforward, the law associated with search and seizure is anything but that. As a United States citizen, it is important to know your rights down to every last detail. This includes:

  • What the law requires of police
  • The definition of probable cause
  • The rights of the citizen
  • How evidence can be used in the court of law
  • Details related to search warrants

What can the Police do? What can’t they do?

United States citizens are entitled to their privacy. That being said, there is a limit to that privacy – and this is where things can get confusing, even for law enforcement officials who should know better.

On both the state and federal level, authorities are permitted, with justification, to search your home, car, or person in an attempt to find and seize illegal items, crime evidence, or stolen goods.

Things that the Police can do:

  • Under the Fourth Amendment, police can engage in reasonable search and seizure. In this case, the word “reasonable” means that the police must be able to show that a crime has likely occurred. Note: in some cases, the police must first obtain a search warrant from a judge.
  • Police have the right to search and seize items in the event that there was no “expectation of privacy.”
  • Police are permitted to use first hand information and tips from others to justify the search of a property.
  • Police are permitted to search your property without a warrant if given consent.
  • When being placed under arrest, police are permitted to search your person.

Things that Police cannot do:

  • Police are not entitled to perform a search without a warrant if there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
  • Police are not permitted to use evidence from an illegal search to subsequently find additional evidence.
  • If evidence was illegally obtained, it cannot be used against you in court. This is known as the exclusionary rule.
  • Police must have reasonable suspicion that your vehicle contains illegal items, stolen goods or criminal evidence before searching.
  • Police are not permitted to stop you and “pat you down” unless there is reasonable suspicion that you have been involved in a crime.

What Power does a Search Warrant give Police?

With a search warrant, police have the legal authority to enter a property without the permission of the owner. The warrant lists the places the police are allowed to search as well as the type of evidence they are permitted to collect. For example, if the warrant allows the police to search the bedroom for illegal drugs and weapons, the search should be confined to this area only.

Have you been a victim of illegal search and seizure? If so, contact the professionals at PKN Law to learn more about your rights and to schedule a free consultation aimed at helping you prepare an impactful defense against criminal accusations.

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