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The right against illegal search and seizure

On Behalf of | Oct 10, 2023 | Criminal Defense Process

Illegal search and seizure actions often occur during arrests. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, officials made 543,138 arrests in 2021.

In the United States, there exists a fundamental legal principle that safeguards the privacy of its citizens – the right against illegal search and seizure. This constitutional right, enshrined in the Fourth Amendment, plays a pivotal role in ensuring that individuals have protection from unwarranted intrusions by the government or law enforcement agencies.

About the Fourth Amendment

At its core, the Fourth Amendment stipulates that people have the right to be secure and expect privacy in their person and property. It guarantees the right to this security against searches and seizures the government may conduct without having reasonable cause. Reasonable cause requires having a warrant or probable cause.

The right against illegal search and seizure extends beyond the physical realm. It also protects digital privacy. In the modern age of technology, smartphones, computers and other electronic devices contain a wealth of personal information. The Fourth Amendment ensures that the government must adhere to the same rules when seeking access to this digital data.

Search warrants

The search warrant requirement for law enforcement officers requires obtaining this document from a neutral judge or magistrate before conducting a search. This document must specify the search location and the items or evidence law enforcement wishes to seize. The warrant requirement acts as a safeguard against arbitrary or baseless searches.

Probable cause

The exception to the search warrant rule occurs when law enforcement has probable cause to believe a person committed a crime or if there are exigent circumstances, such as the risk of someone destroying evidence. The exception of probable cause helps to ensure that law enforcement can effectively carry out their duties while respecting individuals’ rights.

Exclusionary rule

The exclusionary rule is a significant consequence of violations of the Fourth Amendment. If law enforcement obtains evidence through an illegal search or seizure, the court may deem it inadmissible. This rule serves as a strong deterrent against unlawful actions by law enforcement.

The right against illegal search and seizure is a cornerstone of American constitutional law. It protects our privacy and ensures this fundamental right stands as a safeguard against overreach and abuse of power.