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Understanding Search & Seizure Law


The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution prevents illegal search and seizure of a person's property. Before America gained independence from Britain, agents for the King were able to use a broadly worded writ to enter any person's property and search their home without any reason. The Fourth Amendment was developed due to the belief that it is an essential right to prevent government intrusion on a person's home.

Understanding Your Right to Privacy, Probable Cause & the Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment explicitly prevents "unreasonable searches and seizures." The difference between an unreasonable and reasonable search and seizure has been debated for many years, but the law generally errs on whether or not the right to privacy has been upheld and if there was probable cause.

The most well-known places where a person can expect privacy is in their home. These rights can also extend to personal property, such as purses, backpacks, or briefcases. In most cases, these places cannot be entered or searched by law enforcement without explicit permission or possession of a warrant. To obtain a warrant, officers must typically have probable cause. They can also use probably cause to make a search or arrest if the situation calls for it. Again, this is a very debatable area of law and has caused controversy over the years.

Law enforcement is not able to obtain evidence without permission or a legal warrant. If they choose to ignore the laws and search a home without the proper authorization, any evidence obtained against a defendant may be inadmissible in court. This is also known as the exclusionary rule.

If you believe your rights have been violated in an illegal search and seizure, it is crucial that you contact a legal professional right away. Consulting with an attorney can help you determine what steps to take next.

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