Under the Fourth Amendment, police officers cannot invade your personal privacy unless they either have a warrant or a good reason to believe you are committing a crime.
Unfortunately, officers may not always follow the law when performing a search, making an arrest or confiscating property. This could be a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights.
What does the Fourth Amendment protect?
The Fourth Amendment protects you against unreasonable searches of your body and your personal belongings as well as places that you have good reason to believe are private. An officer may need to get a warrant from the court before searching your home or property.
While officers may not need a warrant to search you or your vehicle in a public place, they need to be able to prove they had good reason to think you are committing or have committed a crime before performing a search. In legal terms, an officer must have “probable cause” to perform a search without your consent.
What happens if an officer violates your Fourth Amendment rights?
If officers perform an illegal search and find evidence of a crime, that evidence may not hold up in court.
For example, if an officer pulls you over for a minor traffic violation but does not have probable cause to think you are committing a crime, he or she cannot legally perform a vehicle search without your consent. The officer may search your vehicle anyway and find evidence of a crime. However, if the search was illegal, a judge may dismiss the charges against you.