Home > Criminal Defense > What is the Fourth Amendment Protection Against Unreasonable Search and Seizure?

What is the Fourth Amendment Protection Against Unreasonable Search and Seizure?

by | Dec 14, 2023

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees protections to individuals from unlawful search and seizure by the government. However, it’s important to understand that this right doesn’t mean you can never be searched by the police. It only extends to illegal searches that are deemed unreasonable under the law. In the event a search is conducted illegally, any evidence collected in violation of your rights may not be used against you in court.                   

What is an Unreasonable Search and Seizure?

An unreasonable search and seizure is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. These types of searches and seizures are conducted without a warrant, consent, or probable cause that a crime has been committed. The Fourth Amendment’s broad protections can apply to a wide range of scenarios, including the following: 

  • A police officer’s apprehension of an individual on the street 
  • Traffic stops
  • At the time of arrest
  • Police entering an individual’s home
  • Police confiscating an individual’s personal property

The Fourth Amendment’s protections also cover police searches of places where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. However, there are some situations in which the government may perform warrantless searches, including searches of a person incident to a lawful arrest — and when exigent circumstances exist. For instance, if the police have a reasonable belief evidence will be destroyed or the suspect will cause physical harm to another, a warrantless search may be justified.    

When Does a Reasonable Expectation of Privacy Exist?

Importantly, the Fourth Amendment guarantees that the government cannot seize or search your property or person when a reasonable expectation of privacy exists. A two-prong test is typically applied by courts to determine whether a privacy interest is paramount: 1) you exhibited an actual, subjective expectation of privacy, and 2) the expectation is one that society would be prepared to recognize as reasonable.

Under the protections of the Fourth Amendment, a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy in their own body, home, and personal effects. But there is no expectation of privacy in an open field on your property — or in items you’ve discarded into a public trash can. When a reasonable expectation of privacy exists, police must generally obtain a warrant or obtain permission in order to conduct a lawful search.  

What Happens if Your Fourth Amendment Rights are Violated?      

A Fourth Amendment violation is a serious matter — any evidence collected in connection with an unlawful search will not be admissible in court. This is known as the “exclusionary rule.” In addition, the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine extends the exclusionary rule to evidence that is collected separately, but is derived from evidence that was illegally obtained. 

If you believe evidence was obtained in violation of your Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure, a skillful criminal defense attorney can argue that it should be suppressed. If the judge determines your rights were violated, they will rule that the evidence is inadmissible. Although the prosecution’s case can still move forward if there is other evidence that can be raised, their ability to meet the burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt may become more challenging. 

Contact an Experienced New York Criminal Defense Attorney

If your Fourth Amendment rights were violated, it’s critical to have a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney by your side who can fight for the best possible outcome in your case. Offering reliable representation and skillful defense, the criminal defense attorneys at D’Emilia Law are committed to providing aggressive advocacy for our clients and ensuring their Constitutional rights are safeguarded every step of the way. To schedule a consultation, contact us at 1-888-DEMILIA.

Fourth Amendment
Hardship License

Can I Qualify for a Hardship License After Getting a DWI?

Loss of your license after a drug or alcohol DWI can have a negative impact on your life and livelihood — it can affect your ability to drive to school, travel to work, and carry out your daily errands. In limited situations, you may be eligible for a hardship license...
Aggravated DWI

What is an Aggravated DWI in New York?

A DWI of any kind is a serious matter that can result in harsh penalties, including monetary fines, a jail sentence, and license revocation. However, every DWI case is different — and the consequences can be even more severe if you have been convicted of an aggravated...
Criminal Case

What is a Bench Trial in a Criminal Case?

Most people are familiar with jury trials and know that a defendant has the Constitutional right to be tried by a jury of their peers in a serious criminal case. But a jury trial isn’t always the only option. If you’ve been charged with a felony or certain...

Penalties for Multiple DWI Offenses

A DWI is a serious matter — and the repercussions for multiple offenses can be much more severe. While a first-time DWI conviction is generally classified as a misdemeanor in New York State, a second offense within ten years constitutes a felony. If you’ve been...
DWI Arrest

Common Mistakes to Avoid During a DWI Arrest

Being pulled over for drinking and driving can be a stressful and overwhelming experience. A DWI can not only result in monetary fines and jail time, but it can also lead to personal, professional, and financial ramifications. Critically, any mistakes you make during...
Dispensary license violation attorney

Four Important Things to Know About New York’s Marijuana Laws

As the legal landscape regarding marijuana laws continues to shift, New York became the 16th state to legalize cannabis in 2021. However, there are still certain restrictions in place and it’s important to understand these laws to avoid incurring criminal penalties....
Chemical Test

What are the Consequences of Refusing a Chemical Test?

Under New York’s Implied Consent law, all drivers agree to submit to a chemical test if they are pulled over on reasonable suspicion of drunk driving. These tests are used by law enforcement to determine the level of alcohol in the blood. While the most common...
Pre-Trial Motion

What is a Pre-Trial Motion?

If you’ve been charged with a crime, you need a solid defense. One of the tools your criminal defense attorney will use as part of your defense strategy is the filing of pre-trial motions. Depending on the facts and circumstances of your case, a pre-trial motion can...
Zero Tolerance Law

What is New York’s Zero Tolerance Law?

Being charged with drunk driving at any age is a serious criminal offense that can result in steep consequences. However, New York State law provides distinct penalties for underage drivers who have been charged with DWIs. The Zero Tolerance Law specifies a lower...

When Can You Appeal a Criminal Case in New York?

If you’ve been convicted of a crime, you might still have the option to continue your defense in some situations. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you might be eligible to appeal the conviction or sentence to achieve a dismissal of your case, a reduction...