Top 9 Search and Seizure Questions
Now that the FBI has been caught bugging two California courthouses, many people are wondering about the limits of police surveillance. Recording conversations falls under the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits "unreasonable searches and seizures."
So what's considered unreasonable? It's been a long time since the Constitution was written, and society and technology have changed quite a bit since then. Here are some of the limits of police search and seizure today:
If police have a warrant, the search or seizure will almost always be reasonable. But how do you know if the warrant is legit?
While police need a warrant to search, seize, or conduct surveillance in most instances, there are quite a few exceptions to the warrant requirement.3. Can Police Read or Search Through Your Mail?
The privacy of written communication was one of the leading interests behind the Fourth Amendment. But it only protects the contents of the letter, and only until you throw it away.
State law on electronic searches can vary, and many allow searches of cell phones if you've been arrested, but the Supreme Court has ruled that police will need a warrant to do so.
Police almost always need a warrant to search your home, but can come in without one if you give them permission, if they see something in plain sight, if you've been arrested at home, or there's an emergency.
Some states require that parolees and probationers sign an agreement giving officers permission to search their homes for contraband.
Is every officer a K-9? It may depend on whether police smell marijuana in your house or in your car.
What if cops are really searching you, but just keeping an eye on you? What kind of surveillance requires a warrant?
Strip searches and cavity searches are extremely invasive and can be humiliating and embarrassing as well. But they are allowed in some cases.
In most cases, if police perform an illegal search or seizure, that evidence can't be used against you. To find out if a particular search was legal, you should ask an experienced criminal defense attorney about your case.
- Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory)
- What are my Rights During a Traffic Stop? (FindLaw Blotter)
- Can Cops Pose as Cable Repairmen and Search My Home? (FindLaw Blotter)
- Wrongful Arrest? 5 Questions After Arrest of Black Doctor (FindLaw Blotter)
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.