Search and Seizure – Is it a violation of your Fourth Amendment right?

May 18, 2012


The Fourth Amendment reads: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and Warrants shall not be issued, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”  

By definition, a search and seizure is a procedure wherein police conduct a search upon suspicion of a crime and take possession of any relevant evidence.  In order to do so legally, the government must have probable cause, according to the Fourth Amendment.  

What is probable cause?  It is the reasonable belief that a person has committed a crime.  or, to put it another way - it is a reasonable belief that a crime is or has been committed, and that a particular person is the one who committed, or is committing that crime.  For instance, if a person gets pulled over for speeding and the officer smells marijuana, the officer may have probable cause that a crime has been committed and is legally allowed to search the vehicle (although that is fact dependent).  Officers are skilled at coming up with probable cause, often times creating it after the fact by adding facts they learned after their search or seizure as part of their probable cause.  This, of course, violates your right to be secure and your right to privacy.  Any evidence seized as a result of an illegal search and seizure can be thrown out of court with a Motion to Suppress.    

Without probable cause, a search cannot be conducted without consent.  Police are not going to tell you that you have the right to refuse a search, but hear this:  YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REFUSE AND SHOULD EXERCISE THAT RIGHT.  

A good rule of thumb to follow:  don’t have anything in your vehicle that you don’t want a police officer to find.  Leave it at home.  Unfortunately, good people are finding themselves in situations where their rights are being violated and as such become entangled in the criminal justice system.