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Illegal Search & Seizure – 4th Amendment

The 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from the unlawful search and/or seizure of a citizen’s private property.   The 4th Amendment prohibition against unlawful search & seizure protects citizens from the search and seizures of their bodies, homes, business, cars and other private property.

The scope of the 4th Amendment protection against unlawful search & seizure is broad and kicks in when police search any place or item in which a citizen has a legitimate expectation of privacy.  This would clearly include a citizen’s body in the case of a police stop of any kind.  It would include the home, office, business, car or other property in which there is an expectation of privacy. Finally, it would include items such as luggage, bags, briefcases, and purses which are private in nature.

The government simply has no right without probable cause to search these private areas.  The determination of probable cause can be pretty complex.  The gist of probable cause justifying a search is that law enforcement has reasonable grounds to believe a crime has been or is being committed, the property or item to be search is linked to the crime, the person in control of the property or item has committed the crime in question, and the circumstances dictate that interests of law enforcement dictate that property or item be searched at that particular time.

Your 4th Amendment Right against Unlawful Search & Seizure applies whenever a police stops you for questioning, you are pulled over in your vehicle, the police want to enter your home or business to conduct a search or for the purpose of making an arrest, the search of your car following seizure, the search of any other personal property such as bags, briefcases, purses and so on after seizure, and many other situations where your real or personal property is seized and/or searched by law enforcement.

There are significant consequences to law enforcement for an unlawful search and seizure.  The most severe is the exclusion of any evidence discovered or seized during the illegal search under the Exclusionary Rule.

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