The Sanders Firm, P.C.: Searches Under the Fourth Amendment

In New York City, the Sanders Firm, P.C. is sensitive to the needs of its clients when the government has violated their Fourth Amendment rights. There is a process involving the courts that law enforcement must follow in order to search your premises. If they do not follow proper procedure and if they do not have “probable cause,” they may not enter your home. The Fourth Amendment does not just protect your home from unwarranted searches. It also covers anything you may have on you, such as a wallet or handbag, and other types of property such as your vehicle, other building on your property, etc.

There are exceptions in the case of motor vehicles if something is in plain sight or there is reason for suspicion. Other exceptions to the need for a warrant include if one consents to a search, if there are items related to a crime that are in plain sight, or times when it would be dangerous or impractical to obtain a warrant, such as when a law enforcement officer finds themselves in a dangerous situation with a suspect.

The Basic Process

Before a law enforcement official searches your home or other property, they must have what is called “probable cause.” Searches of property must be “reasonable.” Although both of these terms are open to interpretation, they have been carefully considered by the courts and overall their definitions are fairly clear to judges who must issue the search warrant.

What is “probable cause?” Referencing the Oxford Companion to American Law, we find that it’s defined as, “information sufficient to warrant a prudent person’s belief that the wanted individual had committed a crime (for an arrest warrant) or that evidence of a crime or contraband would be found in a search (for a search warrant).”

If investigators can convince a judge that they have probable cause, then the judge will issue the search warrant. This warrant, which will be issued for a specific location, allows law enforcement officials to enter and search your residence.

Unwarranted Searches

If someone representing law enforcement enters your home and searches it, your person or other property or searches your property or person outside of your home without your permission and they do not have a warrant, they may have violated your Fourth Amendment rights. If they have fabricated the information that led the judge to believe there was probable cause and which caused the judge to issue the search warrant, and then they carried out that search, your civil rights under the Fourth Amendment have been violated. Any search that occurs without the probable cause standard is one in which your civil rights and freedom have been compromised.

If someone enters your home saying they have a warrant and they have not been issued one, this is also a violation. Additionally, even if a law enforcement officer is issued a warrant, if they are not able to show it to you prior to entering and searching your home and they enter and search the premises, they may have compromised your rights.

Taking Action

If you live in the New York City area and you feel that, your home was illegally searched contact The Sanders Firm, P.C. We will work hard to ensure that you receive justice for any illegal searches covered by the Fourth Amendment. At The Sanders Firm, P.C., where we are your voice for justice, we believe strongly in the protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment.