Have you thought about the importance of the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution? This Amendment protects Americans and their property from unlawful searches and seizures.
This means that you should feel secure about your personal property not getting seized at any time.
However, a violation of a Constitutional Amendment can happen, and you want to make sure you’re prepared to fight your case. Here are what your 4th Amendment rights guarantee you:
What Is the 4th Amendment?
The 4th Amendment forbids the State from unlawful searches and seizures of your property. It prevents the State from entering your private property without a warrant.
It also places requirements on the State on how to receive a warrant. A warrant must be approved by a judge or magistrate. The warrant must indicate probable cause.
The warrant must also indicate what property is to be seized. It must also describe the property which the State wishes to search.
Now let’s look at how you can stand up for your 4th Amendment rights to protect yourself against any violation.
Instances Where the 4th Amendment Applies
What are some of the instances where your 4th Amendment rights apply?
Here are a few examples where you should ensure that your 4th Amendment rights don’t get violated:
- You get stopped for police questioning while out in public
- You get stopped for police questioning while on your property
- The State (police, FBI, SWAT, etc.) seek to enter your premises
- You get arrested (lawfully or unlawfully)
- You get pulled over for a minor traffic violation and your vehicle gets searched
- Your vehicle and/or other personal property gets seized
If such an incident happens, you want to make sure you observe the actions of the police officer. They must remain within accordance with the 4th Amendment at all times even during an arrest.
In the event that a police officer violates your rights, you must report this. Make sure you hire a police misconduct attorney to bring the officer to justice.
In some cases, the police might request to search your property without a warrant.
They’ll request your consent to search your property. If you give your consent, they can legally search your property without a warrant.
You don’t have to offer your consent at all. You can deny their request and demand that they obtain a warrant first.
At times, the police will inform you that you can deny a consent request. Even if they don’t inform you, you can always deny the consent request. It’s usually always best that you do so.
Plain View Search
If a police officer is lawfully present, they have the right to seize any object that’s in plain view.
Even in such a scenario, they have to state probable cause before seizing any property. The probable cause has to include why the police officer believes the property is contraband*.
*This refers to objects that have been obtained illegally.
Search Incident to Arrest
In this scenario, a police officer is already conducting a lawful arrest.
The police officer has the right to search the person(s) under arrest for any object that might cause harm to the officer. If the arrest takes place near the person(s) vehicle, the officer has the right to search the vehicle.
Searching a Vehicle
The rules to search a vehicle differ from a person’s private property or premises.
The Supreme Court ruled that persons within a vehicle cannot expect the same level of privacy compared to being in their homes.
The reason for this is that the vehicle can get easily moved to another location where a warrant will get invalidated. Another reason is that a vehicle doesn’t serve as a residence or repository of personal effects.*
A police officer cannot stop a vehicle without stating probable cause. The probable cause must articulate the suspicion of criminal activity.
A police officer can also not search a vehicle without stating probable cause. The one exception is if there are any objects in plain view.
As a general rule, only the driver may get searched in such a scenario. The police officer must state probable cause if they wish to search passengers.
If the driver and or passenger(s) get arrested, the police officer still needs the warrant to search the vehicle. The warrant can only get obtained under the following conditions:
- The police officer suspects that evidence for the crime can get found within the vehicle
- When evidence was found during the initial arrest
- If the driver consents to a search
- If the police officer found weapons or harmful objects during the initial arrest
If a police officer is in hot pursuit of an individual, they have the right to enter the person’s premises without a warrant.
Hot pursuit refers to entering a person’s premises or arresting them when the police officer believes that failing to do so will be harmful to others.
*In most cases.
Finally, what are the incidences where evidence of a crime might become inadmissible if the 4th Amendment is violated?
If evidence gets found, but the Fourth Amendment rights get violated, this evidence will likely be inadmissible in court.
If evidence gets found as the result of an illegal search, it might also get deemed as inadmissible. This is often referred to as the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree.
In the latter situation, even if the evidence gets dismissed it doesn’t dismiss the case. A violation of your 4th Amendment rights won’t guarantee a dismissal of any criminal charges.
Those Are Your4th Amendment Rights
As Americans, we are lucky to have the Constitution to protect our inalienable rights.
But without proper knowledge of the Constitution among Americans, the easier it is for the State to violate it. Your 4th Amendment rights protect you and your property from the overreach of the State.
Make sure you share this guide with your fellow Americans. It’s important that we all learn about our 4th Amendment rights so that we can defend them at all times!
You can also learn more about the Constitution and laws on our website, so be sure to check out more of our articles.