What you Should Know About Unreasonable Searches and Warrants


According to the Fourth Amendment Act, persons have a right to the reasonable and legal search and seizure of their private property by police. This act validates the reasonable right of privacy to an area that law enforcement might need to conduct a search or a seizure. Thus, premises such as homes and apartments are considered private, and therefore the government must have a court-issued search warrant before they conduct any search. In addition to that, the permit must be valid, meaning there must be probable cause. Therefore, the police cannot carry out random intrusions under the law.

Another requirement the warrant must meet is it must have been issued by a non-partisan magistrate and must contain details on where the search will happen. Police cannot search an area that isn’t described in the warrant and therefore cannot seize the property in that area too. Most of the time, police have probable cause when they respond to criminal activities, and they conduct searches without a warrant. Exemptions to the Fourth Amendment include;

  • When a person willingly consents to a search. Under these circumstances, law enforcement personnel don’t need to have a warrant present during the search. They assume the individual knows the extent of the Amendment Act. The act not only protects the people’s rights to privacy, but also prevents any property seized during the search from being used in court as evidence.
  • When conducting administrative searches in corporate premises for inspection purposes, police do not require a warrant. Building inspections, health, and fire hazard inspection need an inspection warrant. However, if the search gets conducted under a statute, it becomes an exemption to the Fourth Amendment rights.
  • If you get pulled over while driving, possibly due to a traffic violation, the police can search the trunk and any other compartments of your car without a warrant. Vehicles get exempted because they are mostly mobile and criminals can use them to conceal weapons and drugs away from their premises. If the police confiscate your car, they are free to search without a valid warrant.
  • When arresting an individual, they can search the property for any evidence of criminal activity. In this case, police have a warrant for arrest, or one gets filed against you, and police suspect that they might collect evidence of your criminal act on your premises.
  • When police witness you committing a crime in plainview and make an arrest, they may search and seize any personal items you have on you. If any of these things link you to criminal activity, then they are admissible in court as evidence. Sometimes an officer may stop you and conduct an investigative frisk if they suspect that you might possess a weapon or might be dangerous.
  • In 2002, the Supreme Court allowed warrantless random drug tests on athletic students in a bid to curb the rising incidences of doping among athletes. Similarly, select custom service employees must comply with an abrupt alcohol and drug test.

So what happens when your Fourth Amendment rights get violated? The law considers that the individual had a reasonable expectation of privacy and sought to ensure that they feel secure in their premises from arbitrary government intrusion.  Consult a legal adviser if law enforcement officers conducts an illegal search. Under the Exclusionary Rule, any property seized during an unlawful search is inadmissible in court. Even if the items are direct evidence of criminal activity, provided that the search gets deemed illegal, the items cannot be used in court against you.

Defense lawyers know more about all the exclusions to the Search and Seizure Act. If you need legal advice in Minneapolis, call us.

Disclaimer: The content of this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please contact Jennifer Speas to discuss the specifics of your case. Please read our disclaimer.