The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects a person from unreasonable searches and seizures by governmental authorities. What does this mean? What situations does the Fourth Amendment cover?
Searching your home
Entering your home to perform a search of the premises without a warrant is presumptively unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment, as is the seizure of an item from your home. However, if you give a law enforcement officer permission to search your home, he or she will not need a warrant to do so. Additionally, if the search relates to a lawful arrest, or if the item in question is in plain view, a warrantless search is permissible.
Searching your vehicle
If a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe there is evidence of criminal activity located somewhere in your car, he or she can perform a lawful search. The officer can also allow a K9 trained in narcotics detection to walk around the outside of your car. During a lawful traffic stop, a law enforcement officer can conduct a pat-down of vehicle occupants whether or not he or she believes those occupants are participating in a criminal activity.
Searching your person
If a law enforcement officer believes you are behaving in a suspicious manner, he or she can stop you and ask reasonable questions to determine whether you may have some involvement in criminal activity.
The more you know about your Fourth Amendment rights, the more secure you will feel. If you are suspected of criminal activity, it is possible a law enforcement officer has conducted an illegal search and seizure, violating your rights. Although the Fourth Amendment does not protect you in every situation, you should explore your legal options without delay.