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"Search and Seizure" and the Fourth Amendment
What Does the Fourth Amendment Protect?
In the criminal law realm, Fourth Amendment "search and seizure" protections extend to:
A law enforcement officer's physical apprehension or "seizure" of a person, by way of a stop or arrest; and
Police searches of places and items in which an individual has a
legitimate expectation of privacy -- his or her person, clothing,
purse, luggage, vehicle, house, apartment, hotel room, and place of
business, to name a few examples.
When Does the Fourth Amendment Apply?
The legal standards derived from the Fourth Amendment provide constitutional protection to individuals in the following situations, among others:
An individual is stopped for police questioning while walking down the street.
An individual is pulled over for a minor traffic infraction, and the police officer searches the vehicle's trunk.
An individual is arrested.
Police officers enter an individual's house to place him or her under arrest.
Police officers enter an individual's apartment to search for evidence of crime.
Police officers enter a corporation's place of business to search for evidence of crime.
Police officers confiscate an individual's vehicle or personal property
and place it under police control.
A valid search warrant;
A valid arrest warrant; or
A belief rising to the level of "probable cause" that an
individual has committed a crime.
When law enforcement officers violate an individual's constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment, and a search or seizure is deemed unlawful, any evidence derived from that search or seizure will almost certainly be kept out of any criminal case against the person whose rights were violated. For example:
An arrest is found to violate the Fourth Amendment because it was not supported by probable cause or a valid warrant. Any evidence obtained through that unlawful arrest, such as a confession, will be kept out of the case.
A police search of a home is conducted in violation of the homeowner's Fourth Amendment rights, because no search warrant was issued and no special circumstances justified the search. Any evidence obtained as a result of that search cannot be used against the homeowner in a criminal case.
Unfortunately, with no more evidence than an anonymous poison-pen
letter, or the claims of a drunk, the police can now smash into your
home in the middle of the night, wearing masks and waving submachine
The heart of the snitching problem lies in the secret deals that police and prosecutors make with criminals. In investigating drug offenses, police and prosecutors rely heavilyand sometimes exclusivelyon criminals willing to trade information about other criminals in exchange for leniency. Many snitches avoid arrest altogether, thus continuing to use and deal drugs and commit other crimes in their neighborhoods, while providing information to the police. As drug dockets swell and police and prosecutors become increasingly dependent on snitches, high-crime communities are filling up with these active criminals who will turn in friends, family, and neighbors in order to "work off" their own crimes.
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