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When are searches legal under the Fourth Amendment?

People in the United States have very specific rights that are set forth by the United States Constitution. One of the specific rights that people have is the right to privacy that is based on the Fourth Amendment. While some people might think that this gives them carte blache for all things, that isn't the case.

What are the limits to privacy under the Fourth Amendment?

The Fourth Amendment gives you the right to limited privacy unless there is probable cause for law enforcement officers to believe that you were part of an illegal activity. If the police officer believes that you were engaged in illegal activities, he or she can search your person to determine if there is evidence to support his or her belief. This search can occur to any area near you that you have control over, as well as your person.

What is the expectation to privacy?

When police officers are searching for evidence, they must adhere to the expectation of privacy concept. This concept means that they aren't actually conducting a search if they find evidence in a place that isn't considered private. For example, you wouldn't expect privacy if you place a bag of drugs next to you on a park bench. In that case, if the police officer sees the drugs and seizes them, it isn't considered a search because you don't expect a park bench to be private.

Your rights can play an important role in your defense. If you think that your rights have been violated during the search, seizure or arrest procedures, make sure you discuss that information with your attorney.

Source: FindLaw, "Searches and Seizures: The Limitations of the Police," accessed Feb. 19, 2016

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