Every person has certain constitutional rights that protect him or her from unfair and unreasonable treatment by the government. One of those things is the freedom from illegal search and seizures by law enforcement. The Fourth Amendment is particularly important to understand when under investigation for alleged criminal activity or when interacting with law enforcement.
The Fourth Amendment specifically protects a person’s personal privacy and shields against invasive and inappropriate searches of places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. It also offers protection against an arrest without probable cause or apprehension of a person without reason. Arrests, searches and seizures of evidence can only happen in specific circumstances for a clear reason.
What does this mean for you?
This amendment may not be particularly meaningful for you until the day you need it. For example, perhaps police stopped and questioned you without reason while you were simply walking down the street or going about your daily activities. Perhaps law enforcement entered your place of business without a warrant to try to find evidence of supposed wrongdoing. The work of the government does not trump your right to an expectation of privacy and due process.
The Fourth Amendment can apply in various situations. The degree to which it applies depends on the nature of the individual case, but it may apply if law enforcement:
- Pulls you over for a minor traffic infraction and then searches your personal vehicle
- Stops and questions you on the street without a clear reason to do so
- Enters your place of business or place of residence to search for evidence of alleged criminal activity
- Confiscates your personal property or your vehicle, taking it into police custody
Law enforcement has to follow specific procedures and policies when investigating a crime or questioning a person about a crime. They cannot search your property or place of business with a valid search warrant, and they cannot arrest you without an arrest warrant, with some notable exceptions. Additionally, they cannot detain an individual without having probable cause that a crime has taken place.
Protecting your rights
Violations of your Fourth Amendment rights are serious. In fact, it can undermine the prosecution’s entire case against you if there were problems with police procedure. An evaluation of your case by an experienced Georgia defense attorney can help you understand your rights and let you know how you can develop a strategy that is in your best long-term interests.