The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees you the right to privacy. It specifically protects you from unlawful searches and seizures by law enforcement officers. In most cases, a warrant is necessary for a police officer to carry out a search or seizure.
However, there are certain exceptions to the rule. Police officers can conduct certain searches and seizures without warrants in specific circumstances.
Police officers can search you or your property without violating the Constitution by obtaining a warrant from a neutral judge. The official seeking a warrant must explain the reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and identify the property or location in question.
When a warrant is not necessary
Here are some situations in which the police may be able to seize your property or detain or arrest you without a warrant:
- You give consent to a search
- The property is in plain view
- Searches in government offices and public schools
- The police officer establishes probable cause of a crime during a traffic stop
According to the United States Courts, the extent of your Fourth Amendment protections partially depends on the location in question.
When the police obtain evidence through a violation
If a police officer violates your Fourth Amendment rights during a stop, detention or arrest, any evidence can be dismissed from your criminal case. However, this does not necessarily mean the entire case gets thrown out. If the prosecutor has enough evidence through other sources, the case may still continue.
This is an educational post and does not constitute legal advice.