Search and Seizure Protections

The constitutional right to privacy affords protection against illegal searches and seizures by the government. However, citizens are only protected against unreasonable searches and seizures. It is reasonable, and thus constitutional, for law enforcement officers and government agents to undertake searches and seizures in order to investigate criminal activity where probable cause exists.

A basic principle of search and seizure law is that your right to privacy extends to legitimate areas of privacy only. Abandoned vehicles and structures are not legitimate areas of privacy, for example, and can be searched without a warrant. Where a right of privacy exists but there is probable cause to suspect criminal activity, a warrant may be obtained.

Can my home be searched without a warrant?

No-unless there are "exigent circumstances." Situations where the police believe criminal activity is occurring in the house, a fugitive is hiding or an emergency exists permit the police to enter and search without a warrant.

TIP: The police can search your home if you consent.

Can my vehicle be searched without a warrant?

Yes. The automobile exception to a warrant requirement is triggered if police see illegal items in the vehicle or believe that criminal activity has or will occur. Nervousness alone is not enough to justify a police officer's belief that criminal activity is present and that your vehicle should be searched.

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