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Searches and Seizures

Searches and Seizures

The Fourth Amendment essentially protects a person’s right to privacy.  In that regard, the Fourth Amendment prevents both state and federal government from intruding upon a person’s home, business and other property.  Of course, there are certain circumstances that justify government intrusion but the Fourth Amendment provides certain guarantees.

What is a search and seizure?  By its very terms, the Fourth Amendment expressly protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.  A seizure can take place when a person is detained by the police.  A person does not necessarily have to be arrested in order for a seizure to occur.  If police confiscate items as the result of a search and seizure, those items may be used as evidence in a criminal trial so long as the search and seizure is valid under the Fourth Amendment.

When do the protections provided by the Fourth Amendment apply? The Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures are not absolute.  That is to say, there are exceptions that allow law enforcement to side-step the general provisions of the Fourth Amendment.  Generally speaking, police may not perform a search and seizure without a valid search warrant or arrest warrant. However, if there is probable cause to believe that a person has committed a crime, then police may be authorized to conduct a warrantless search and seize any contraband or other forensic evidence.

When is probable cause not required for a search and seizure? Generally, probable cause is required for a valid search and seizure.  Probable cause must be conducted on a case-by-case basis.  It arises from the surrounding facts and circumstances and must be such that a reasonable person would believe that a crime was committed.  However, there are certain situations that do not require probable cause to support a search and seizure.

What happens if a search and seizure is unreasonable? An unreasonable search and seizure is an unlawful search and seizure.  Any evidence obtained in violation of a person’s Fourth Amendment rights can be thrown out of court.