Police officer pulling over civilian without reasonable cause.

Understanding Your Fourth Amendment Rights

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects every American from illegal searches and seizures. But just because we are promised this civil right does not mean all of us enjoy it. Unfortunately, the police regularly disregard the Fourth Amendment in carrying out its law enforcement duties. The civil rights attorneys of Hale & Monico want you to understand your rights, and we can help you take legal action against those who violate them.

An Understanding of the Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures applies to an individual as well as their vehicle and their home. That means law enforcement is restricted on what they can legally do to you while you’re walking on the sidewalk, driving in your car, or in the privacy of your home.

Bear in mind, however, that the Fourth Amendment only protects against “unreasonable” searches and seizures. That means, generally, the police must have reasonable cause. One way this reasonable cause may be obtained is through an arrest or search warrant.

An arrest warrant gives police the legal right to detain, arrest, and search you. A police officer can request a judge to issue an arrest warrant. If the judge is convinced there is sufficient evidence to establish probable cause, he or she can issue an arrest warrant.

Search warrants are similar. The police may investigate and determine there is probable cause to believe a vehicle, home, or person are carrying or storing something illegal, like drugs. This evidence is then presented to a judge, who must determine if it is enough to justify a warrant.

There are some exceptions to the warrant requirement. For example, the police may approach you in public and ask you to answer questions. As long as a reasonable person would believe that he or she is free to walk away, this simple contact is not enough to raise a Fourth Amendment issue.

The police can also briefly detain you if they have reasonable suspicion to believe criminal activity is occurring. Reasonable suspicion is not the same as probable cause, and the individual is not under arrest during this encounter. However, the police are allowed to frisk you to feel for any weapons that may endanger the officer.

Search and seizure cases open up numerous legal issues for criminal defendants. Did the police conduct their investigation and gather evidence lawfully, without violating the Fourth Amendment? Was the evidence really enough to establish probable cause? Did the police have reasonable suspicion to stop the defendant?

If the police obtained evidence of criminal wrongdoing in violation of the Fourth Amendment, it can be disqualified. Similarly, the arrest or search warrant may be held invalid if there was not sufficient evidence to support it. Finally, a brief pat-down for weapons is not an open invitation to conduct a full search. These are just some of the potential issues you may be able to raise if you are arrested or charged with a crime in a manner that does not comply with the Constitution.

Contact Our Civil Rights Attorneys at Hale & Monico Today

If you believe that the police violated your Fourth Amendment rights, talk to the experienced civil rights attorneys of Hale & Monico right away. Reach out to us today to explore your legal options.