The United States Constitution provides certain benefits for citizens, including protection when under suspicion of criminal activity. Even if you are a suspect in a criminal investigation in California, you have certain rights, including the right to protection against illegal searches and seizures. Because of the 4th Amendment, you do not have to endure unreasonable government intrusion in your life in the form of a search of your person or personal property.
There are limits to what law enforcement can do and how they can conduct investigations. They cannot detain you except in certain circumstances, and they cannot come into your home, work or places where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy without certain legal permission. It is in your interests to know your rights under the 4th Amendment and what to do if police violated these rights.
What does the 4th Amendment mean for you?
The 4th Amendment refers to illegal searches and seizures. What this means for you is that you have protection against unlawful detention in the form of an arrest or stopping you without a valid reason. It also means that police cannot search for evidence to be used in a criminal case without a search warrant or valid reason to believe that a criminal activity is taking place. Examples of when the 4th Amendment may apply include the following:
- Police stop you for questioning while you are walking down the street.
- Police pull you over for a minor traffic violation, and then decide to search your trunk.
- Police enter your home to place you under arrest.
- Law enforcement officers come into your home to search for evidence of a crime.
- Police conduct a search at your place of work or business.
- Police confiscate your personal vehicle or personal property and keep it under police control.
In most cases, law enforcement cannot search property, confiscate property or place someone under arrest unless there is a valid arrest warrant, search warrant or probable cause to believe someone committed a crime.
A violation of your rights
If you believe you experienced a violation of your rights in the course of a criminal investigation or during an arrest, there are options available to you. You have the right to challenge the prosecution’s case, which may include seeking a reduction of the charges against you or dismissal of the entire case. A careful evaluation of the circumstances of your specific case will provide insight regarding the options available to you.