The Fourth Amendment protects individuals against unreasonable searches and seizures. These protections only apply to government action. In order for a person to have Fourth Amendment rights, the person must have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the area that is searched. Generally, people have a reasonable expectation of privacy in premises that they own or have a right to possess and in their homes. Generally there is no expectation of privacy in things held out to the public.

For a search to be considered reasonable, the police must have a valid warrant. A valid warrant is one that is issued by a neutral and detached magistrate, based on probable cause and describes the place to be search or items to be seized. One of the main purposes of the warrant requirements is “to protect privacy interests by ensuring citizens subject to a search or seizure that such intrusions are not the random or arbitrary acts of government agents.” Skinner v. Railway Labor Executives’ Ass’n, 489 U.S. 602, 621-22 (1989).

Exceptions to Warrants Requirements on a Search

While a warrant is generally required for the police to perform a valid search, in reality, many lawful searches are done without a warrant pursuant to the recognized exceptions to the requirement. Police do not need a valid warrant to perform a search under the following circumstances:

  • Search incident to a lawful arrest
  • Plain view of evidence of a crime or contraband
  • Entry to arrest with arrest warrant
  • Consent
  • Suspicion of criminal activity/stop and frisk
  • Automobile Search
  • Exigency ” Warrantless searches or entries can be done where there is a need to prevent imminent danger to others, to give emergency help or to prevent the destruction or hiding of evidence.
  • Administrative searches
  • Inventory searches ” A police officer does not need a warrant to search a car if she has lawfully seized the car for a parking violation and needs to inventory the car’s contents.
  • Search of probationer’s home by a probation officer
  • Searches of offices of public employees
  • Drug tests

Exclusionary Rule

The exclusionary rule holds that any evidence obtained in an illegal search or seizure is inadmissible in court and cannot be introduced as evidence in a trial. This is one of the aspects your case we investigate, has the alleged evidence collected against our client obtained legally or not. This rule applies to the federal courts and state courts. There are exceptions to the exclusionary rule, which are not addressed here. Contact our office for more information.

Contact a Criminal Attorney

The law on search and seizure is quite complex. If you believe that your Fourth Amendment rights have been violated, speak with your San Diego criminal law attorney. Contact the Law Office of Peter Blair, APC, for a free consultation with an aggressive criminal attorney in San Diego, California.