Your Fourth Amendment rights stand as a safeguard against unjust searches and seizures by authorities. This constitutional protection ensures that you, as a United States citizen, have a safeguard against arbitrary invasions of your privacy.
If you find yourself facing criminal charges after the police searched your property, you have options for defending yourself. This starts by understanding your rights against unlawful searches.
Protection against unreasonable searches
The Fourth Amendment specifically protects against “unreasonable searches.” This means that law enforcement must have a valid reason, known as “probable cause,” to believe that you committed a crime or are about to commit a crime. Without this, they cannot infringe upon your privacy.
Protection against seizures
The amendment also shields you from unjust seizures of your property. Authorities cannot take your belongings unless they have a lawful reason to do so. This means that your personal possessions and assets are under protection from arbitrary confiscation.
The role of warrants
In most cases, for a search or seizure to occur, police must have a warrant obtained from a judge. This process ensures that there is a valid reason and evidence supporting the intrusion.
Exceptions to the rule
While the Fourth Amendment is a robust shield against unreasonable searches and seizures, you should understand that there are exceptions. For instance, during emergencies, law enforcement may act without a warrant to prevent imminent harm or destruction of evidence.
The National Registry of Exonerations shows that over 2,800 individuals in the U.S. were wrongfully convicted in the past. Your Fourth Amendment rights help to ensure that you do not meet a similar fate by protecting you against wrongful searches and seizures.