When police suspect that a person committed a crime, there are procedures that they must follow to respect the Constitutional rights of that person. For example, the purpose of the Fourth Amendment is to protect people from unreasonable searches and seizures. With few exceptions, a search or seizure is considered unreasonable when police do not have a legitimate search warrant that was issued by a judge.
The question remains as to what constitutes a "search or seizure" by the police. The Supreme Court has established two tests to determine if the police committed a search in violation of your Fourth Amendment rights: the reasonable expectation of privacy test, and the physical intrusion test.
Expectation of Privacy
In the Supreme Court decision Katz v. United States, the Court stated that police commit a "search" in the context of the Fourth Amendment if they intrude on an area where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy. In this case, Mr. Katz used a public telephone booth to make illegal gambling wagers. In their investigation, the police attached an electronic eavesdropping device to the phone booth to listen to the conversations. The recording conversations were used as evidence to convict Mr. Katz. Mr. Katz then sued the government for violating his Fourth Amendment rights by committing a "search or seizure" without a warrant.
The Supreme Court held that although Mr. Katz was in a public place, he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the phone booth. He expected that his conversation would be private. This meant that in order to listen to the conversation, the police needed a warrant.
Similarly, if the police invade an area where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, they may have violated your Fourth Amendment rights.
The Supreme Court expanded the protections of the Fourth Amendment again in the case United States v. Jones. In this case, Mr. Jones was suspected of drug trafficking. Without a valid warrant, police placed a GPS tracking device on his car to track his movements.
The Court held that any physical intrusion of a person's property constitutes a "search" and must be done with a warrant. By placing the GPS device on the car, the police invaded the property of Mr. Jones.
In addition to the reasonable expectation of privacy test, the police may have violated your Fourth Amendment rights if they physically intruded onto your property without a valid search warrant.
Suppressing the Evidence
If the police gained any evidence as a result of a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights, that evidence will not be allowed in court. By filing a motion to suppress evidence, you may get anything from weapons, drugs, or blood samples thrown out of the case. This means that the jury will not know about the evidence, and there may not be enough information to convict you.
If you feel like your Fourth Amendment rights were violated during the police investigation or your arrest, do not hesitate to contact an attorney. They will be able to help you ensure that you have a fair trial. For more information, contact a professional like The Law Office of Gregory J. Hermiller, LLC.