Unreasonable Searches or Seizures
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides,
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Ultimately, these words endeavor to protect two fundamental liberty interests – the right to privacy and freedom from arbitrary invasions (source).
A search occurs when an expectation of privacy that society considers reasonable is infringed by a governmental employee or by an agent of the government. Private individuals who are not acting in either capacity are exempt from the Fourth Amendment prohibitions.
A seizure refers to the interference with an individual’s possessory interest in property. To meet the definition of an unreasonable seizure, the property’s owner must have had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the items seized. A person is seized when law enforcement personnel use physical force to restrain the person if a reasonable person in the same or a similar situation would not feel free to leave the situation. The previous owner of abandoned property cannot allege an unreasonable seizure of that abandoned property. Abandoned property is property left behind by its owner in a manner in which the owner abandons the possessory interest in the property and no longer retains a reasonable expectation of privacy with regard to the search.
The prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures particularly affects the work of law enforcement personnel by restricting the actions that they may take in performing a criminal investigation; however, the ban also disallows unreasonable searches and seizures in the civil litigation context. Law enforcement may only conduct a search if individualized suspicion motivates the search. The Fourth Amendment prohibits generalized searches, unless extraordinary circumstances place the general public in danger.
Right to be Free From Unreasonable Searches or Seizures:
The following information is intended as a brief summation of your constitutional rights and is meant to offer helpful hints at how to effectively assert and protect those rights within the context of a police encounter. Of course, this information is no substitute for consultation with an experienced attorney.
Do NOT allow any search of your body, home, garage, business, computer, car, boat or other dwelling or conveyance or property, unless an officer presents proper credentials and a search warrant. The Fourth Amendment protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures. ONLY if the police have a valid search warrant is it appropriate to give permission to search. If there is a warrant, ask to read the papers before granting permission. Then ask the officers if you may watch as they search and ask to call your lawyer before the search. You never know whether your spouse, children or perhaps a friend or acquaintance (or even a stranger) may have placed or left contraband or other evidence of crime in or on your property. NEVER allow a search without a warrant. If asked whether it will be okay to search, just say, “No.” (Source)
West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
West Palm Beach lawyer Andrew Stine focuses exclusively on criminal defense cases and has an exceptional track record of results spanning the last ten years. A former public defender and medic for the U.S. Army, Mr. Stine is known for being proactive. He represents his clients aggressively, armed with individual attention and a passionate respect for their rights to due process.
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