Many law enforcement officials abide by rules governing search and seizure. They will only perform them with a warrant or, in its absence, reasonable belief that they will find evidence of a crime. Yet some officers misuse their powers and may search you or your property without reason. If you are the victim of officer overreach, it’s important to know how their actions violated your Fourth Amendment rights.
What the Fourth Amendment guarantees
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution grants citizens protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. The amendment does not prohibit all searches and seizures. But it provides that an officer must have a search warrant, an arrest warrant or probable cause before moving forward. If a search hinges on probable cause, an officer can conduct it if they see criminal activity near you or suspect that you have evidence on you. Yet, if an officer does not believe they will find evidence of criminal activity, they lack the probable cause to perform a search.
Fourth Amendment violations
For an officer to violate your Fourth Amendment rights, their actions must have infringed on your expectation of privacy. This expectation, though, must qualify as reasonable. If an officer searched your home, vehicle or person with a warrant or probable cause, their actions may not have violated your rights. Yet, if they did so without a warrant or probable cause, their actions no longer qualify as reasonable. In this case, any evidence seized during their search becomes unusable at trial.
If an officer violates your Fourth Amendment rights, they must face accountability for their actions. An attorney with criminal defense experience can help you work toward recourse for any damages their actions caused you.