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How the Fourth Amendment Can Protect You


Although the Fourth Amendment grants you the right to personal privacy, illegal search and seizures still occur every year. Read on to learn what the Fourth Amendment states and how it applies to search and seizure law.

What Does the Fourth Amendment Say?

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution states:

“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 no Warrants shall issue, 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.”

The amendment prohibits police officers from unreasonable search and seizure in areas, or of items, where you have “an expectation of privacy.” As this is a loose description, a number of areas can fall into this category. Additionally, there are ways police can legally conduct a search and seizure in these areas. We discuss these details below.

When Are You Protected?

The Fourth Amendment protects any “private” container or location, including:

  • Your purse or backpack
  • Your apartment, house, home, or hotel room
  • Your place of work, including your desk or office

Although you may have a reasonable expectation of privacy within your vehicle, the court may not. In this case, if you are arrested, state clearly and plainly, “You do not have permission to search my vehicle.”

If the police do not have probable cause and do not have a warrant to search your vehicle, the evidence they collect during the search may or may not be viable. Your attorney can help you argue the validity of their car search and fight to have the evidence removed from your case.

When Is a Search Legal?

In order to conduct a legal search and seizure a “private” area, police officers must have:

  • A valid arrest warrant
  • A valid search warrant for the location or item
  • A firm belief of “probable cause” that the individual in question committed the crime
  • Verbal permission from a resident of the house or home

In order to act on probable cause, a police officer must have reasonable evidence that directly implicates you of committing the crime. If the officer cannot provide this information, they do not have probable cause to conduct a search or seizure.

Additionally, if the area they are searching does not fall under the “expectation of privacy” clause, police can legally conduct a search; the most common example of this area is a dumpster or trashcan.

If Your Fourth Amendment Right Was Violated, Contact the Law Offices of Christopher J. Cherella.

No person’s rights should ever be violated, which is why Milwaukee Criminal Defense Attorney Christopher Cherella investigates all of the facts concerning your case and works to throw out illegally obtained evidence. He has more than 20 years of experience challenging the courts and has successfully helped hundreds of clients.

Criminal Defense Lawyer Christopher J. Cherella is available 24/7. Discuss your Milwaukee search and seizure case today: (414) 882-8382.

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