In the United States, you are entitled to your privacy. You are also entitled to protections from government intrusions, but there are limits to such privacies. State and federal officers are allowed to search your premise, car and other property in order to obtain illegal items or evidence of a crime. However, they must follow specific rules when exercising this right.
What Police Are Allowed to Do
Under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, police and federal officers are allowed to engage in reasonable searches and seizures of your personal property. In order to prove that their search is “reasonable,” they must show that it is likely a crime has occurred and a search will find the evidence of that crime – known as probable cause. In some situations, the police must first prove their reasonable suspicion to a judge and then receive a warrant from that judge before their search can be carried out. However, police are not required by the law to have a search warrant while conducting a search.
Police are also allowed to search and seize items when they believe there is no legitimate expectation of privacy. For example, if you do not have a private interest in the items, police can take them. Determining if you had an expectation of privacy can be complicated to determine. If you have incriminating evidence in plain view – meaning police officers do not have to search for it because they can clearly see it – you may have no expectation of privacy. Also, storing items in public places are considered no longer private; therefore, police can search and seize items in public without a warrant.
Police are also allowed to use first-hand information or tips to justify their search of your property. But, police are required to prove that the information they used was reliable before they conduct their search. They cannot just take the word of an individual without verifying the information.
Lastly, police are allowed to extend their search with or without a warrant if:
- They feel it is necessary to protect the safety of others
- They feel it will prevent the destruction of evidence
- They discover more evidence that is in plain view
What Police Cannot Do
It may seem as though police can do a lot when it comes to searching your private property and items, but they have plenty of restrictions as well. Just some of the things police officers cannot do include:
- They cannot perform a warrantless search if you have a reasonable expectation of privacy in that area.
- If the evidence was obtained through an unreasonable search or illegal search, that evidence cannot be used against you in court.
- Police cannot use evidence that results from an illegal search to look for more evidence.
- Police cannot search your vehicle unless they have a reasonable suspicion it contains evidence or illegal items – if they confiscate the car, they can search it.
- Unless the police have reasonable suspicion that you were involved in a crime, they cannot search your person.
- Police cannot obtain a search warrant on false information and they must believe in the statements presented to the judge as evidence for a warrant.
Were Your Rights Violated? Contact a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney
While police know what laws they must obey, it doesn’t mean they always follow them. If you feel you were subjected to an unlawful search or seizure, you need a criminal defense attorney to assist you with your case. Contact the Law Office of Timothy Armstrong, P.A. today. We can assist you with your defense. To schedule a consultation 24 hours per day, call 904-356-8618 or fill out an online contact form with your questions.