Fourth Amendment – Search and Seizure Limitations

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Fourth Amendment

While the Fourth Amendment gives the rights to citizens from government intrusion, this comes with a limitation. When there is a justified cause, the federal or state police are allowed to search your car, your premises or other properties for stolen goods, illegal items or evidence.

However, there are certain rules that the police must follow while engaging in these searches and seizures. Here is what they can and cannot do while still upholding the Fourth Amendment of the law.

What the police are allowed to do

The Fourth Amendment allows police officers to engage in a reasonable search and seizure.

· In order for the search to be reasonable, the police need to show there is a likelihood a crime occurred and if they conduct a search, it is probable they could find either evidence or stolen goods. In this case, it is considered probable cause.

· In certain situations, it is usually necessary for the police to get a search warrant from a judge. However, in many situations, the police may conduct the search even without the warranty. Actually, most searches are normally warrantless.

The police may also search and seize goods if you do not have a legitimate expectation of privacy. This is to say that if there is no privacy interest in the evidence or items, the police could seize them and in such a case, no search has taken place.

When there is no legitimate expectation of privacy

· When the police are holding you under arrest, they are allowed to search your person as well as the immediate surroundings.

· If you are arrested at a residence, they will conduct a protective sweep and do a cursory visual inspection to check whether there is an accomplice in hiding. However, there needs to be a reasonable belief that an accomplice is or might be close by.

· They police are allowed to search without a warrant if they fear for theirs and the public’s safety.

· When the police officers arrest you, they may do an inventory search of your items, which could include your car without any warrant.

· The police may also do a warrantless search if they fear for an imminent destruction of the evidence.

· When the police are in “hot pursuit” of a suspected person who enters a private property when fleeing, the police are allowed to search the place without a warrant.

What the police are NOT allowed to do

· The police are not allowed to conduct a search without a warrant in areas that you have a reasonable expectancy of privacy unless a warrantless exception applies.

· In case the police obtain evidence through unreasonable or illegal searches, the evidence may not be used in court, which is considered an exclusionary rule.

· The police are not allowed to use evidence obtained illegally to find more evidence.

· The police are not allowed to submit an affidavit in order to get a search warrant if they do not have any reasonable belief that the statements in that affidavit are authentic.

· The police may not search a vehicle unless they reasonably suspect it contains evidence, stolen goods or illegal items. If the police confiscate a car, however, they can search it.

· Without a reasonable suspicion of a person being involved in criminal activities, the police are not allowed to frisk that person. In case there is reasonable suspicion, they are allowed to pat down the outer clothing in search of a concealed weapon.

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