The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects personal privacy and every citizen's right to be free from unreasonable government intrusion into their persons, homes, businesses, and property — whether through police stops of citizens on the street, arrests, or searches of homes and businesses. Lawmakers and the courts have put in place legal safeguards to ensure that law enforcement officers interfere with individuals' Fourth Amendment rights only under limited circumstances, and through specific methods.
In the criminal law realm, Fourth Amendment "search and seizure" protections extend to:
The Fourth Amendment provides safeguards to individuals during searches and detentions, and prevents unlawfully seized items from being used as evidence in criminal cases. The degree of protection available in a particular case depends on the nature of the detention or arrest, the characteristics of the place searched, and the circumstances under which the search takes place.
The legal standards derived from the Fourth Amendment provide constitutional protection to individuals in the following situations, among others:
Potential scenarios implicating the Fourth Amendment, and law enforcement's legal obligation to protect Fourth Amendment rights in those scenarios, are too numerous to cover here. However, in most instances a police officer may not search or seize an individual or his or her property unless the officer has:
When law enforcement officers violate an individual's constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment, and a search or seizure is deemed unlawful, any evidence derived from that search or seizure will almost certainly be kept out of any criminal case against the person whose rights were violated. For example:
An arrest is found to violate the Fourth Amendment because it was not supported by probable cause or a valid warrant. Any evidence obtained through that unlawful arrest, such as a confession, will be kept out of the case.
A police search of a home is conducted in violation of the homeowner's Fourth Amendment rights, because no search warrant was issued and no special circumstances justified the search. Any evidence obtained as a result of that search cannot be used against the homeowner in a criminal case.
The Southern Utah criminal defense attorneys of Douglas D. Terry & Associates know the law and will help you offer your best possible defense. Find out more here about what we can do for you and call (435) 628-4411 or contact us online today for a free consultation.
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