The Fourth Amendment: Protecting Your Privacy

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Amendments are modifications of the Constitution that deal with a variety of rights including freedom of speech and the right to vote. We may not be familiar with all facets of the constitution and its amendments, but once we find ourselves in certain legal situations, knowing the ins and outs of some of these amendments will be essential.

The Fourth Amendment is one many should be familiar with as it places limits on the power of the police when it comes to making arrests, searching people and property, and seizing objects and contraband. These limits play a key role in what constitutes search and seizure laws.

This article will cover the Fourth Amendment and discuss what your rights are when dealing with the police.

What is the Fourth Amendment? 

The Fourth Amendment works to protect your privacy by making unreasonable searches and seizures by state and federal law enforcement authorities illegal.

On the other hand, it does permit reasonable searches. This means that some searches may be conducted in the interest of the law that may override your privacy concerns. These searches may occur in any part of your residence, on any property you own or it can be a search of your bank records and legal documents.

These searches may legally occur as long as the following apply.

  • The police have probable cause that they can find evidence of a crime and a warrant has been issued


  • The circumstances justify a search without a warrant.

The Fourth Amendment and Expectation of Privacy

The Fourth Amendment only applies to situations where a person expects a degree of privacy. Therefore, the court will consider the circumstances regarding the search including the following:

  • Did the person expect a degree of privacy?
  • Is that expectation of privacy one that is objectively reasonable, i.e. one that would be recognizable to society?

For example, when a person uses the bathroom, they expect to have a degree of privacy. Therefore, installing a hidden camera in a bathroom would be considered a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

On the other hand, if a car is pulled over and the driver has a weapon displayed on the front seat of the car, the police may proceed to search the car. There would be no expectation of privacy because the weapon was in clear view.

What Happens When a Search Violates the Fourth Amendment?

So, let’s say a search occurs that violates the Fourth Amendment. In these situations, what happens to the evidence? Here are some possibilities.

The Exclusionary Rule: The Exclusionary Rule was established by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1961. It states that any evidence obtained during an illegal search cannot be used in a court of law.

Although some argue that the Exclusionary Rule can allow criminals to go free, it also makes the police less likely to conduct improper searches.

Fruit of the Poisonous Tree Doctrine: The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree Doctrine establishes that not only is any evidence that’s found during a legal search inadmissible in court, but any additional evidence derived from that initial evidence is also inadmissible.

Exceptions to the Rule: It is important to note that an illegal search is not grounds for dismissal of the case. Even though evidence found during an illegal search is not admissible, other evidence may be found that establishes the defendant’s guilt.

Also, there are some instances where illegally seized evidence may be considered by a judge and admitted in civil and deportation cases. It can also be used to reduce the credibility of a defendant testifying at the trial.

Knowing Your Fourth Amendment Rights

If you are involved in a legal incident and feel your Fourth Amendment rights may have been violated, you need a good lawyer on your side. A reliable lawyer will help you navigate the legal system and determine what evidence is admissible and what evidence is not.

If you are looking for a lawyer in the Greenville, SC area, call Bannister, Wyatt & Stalvey, LLC Attorneys at Law first.  

Bannister, Wyatt & Stalvey, LLC have over forty years of experience in the area of criminal defense. They make it a priority to establish trust with every client they serve. Their commitment to excellence drives them to get the people they represent the results they are looking for.

If an illegal search and seizure occurred in your criminal case, don’t take it lying down. The Bannister, Wyatt & Stalvey team will make sure your rights are protected and they will see to it that justice is served.

Why Choose Bannister, Wyatt & Stalvey Law Firm?

With the experience to address complex family law, criminal defense, and real estate matters, our knowledgeable team of attorneys are here to advocate for you. We operate our law offices on three main principles:


We strive to establish personal trust with each and every client.


We operate with the utmost integrity when dealing with clients and the legal community.


We commit to excellence in all aspects of the legal profession.
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