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Expectation of privacy matters in search and seizure law

There are several components of the Fourth Amendment that Americans should be familiar with. Most are familiar with some of the protections that this amendment gives regarding the need for search warrants in many cases. There are, however, some finer points that you should know. One of these is how the expectation of privacy affects your rights.

In order to be considered a factor in a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights, the right to privacy must be legitimate. This means that a reasonable person would expect the privacy that you claim you would expect. An example of this would be that a purse or wallet might be considered a place that a reasonable person would expect to be private.

Generally, a vehicle wouldn't be held to the same high standard as a home or a personal bag when it comes to the expectation of privacy. This means that things that are found in your car wouldn't necessarily fall under the expectation of privacy premise. For example, if a baggie of marijuana is found in the console of a vehicle, that isn't likely to be a place that you could argue that you expected to be private.

Unless there is reason to believe that evidence will be destroyed before police officers could obtain a warrant or if a search warrant is already in hand, you have the reason to expect that your home will remain private. This means that if a police officer enters you home without permission and finds a joint in your closed dresser drawer, you could possibly argue that you had an expectation of privacy, so the joint shouldn't be allowed as evidence.

Understanding and applying the expectation of privacy portion of the Fourth Amendment can be complicated. If you think your case might have an element that meets the criteria for a violation of your expectation of privacy, seek out assistance to learn your options for presenting that concept in court.

Source: FindLaw, "Search and Seizure Law," accessed Oct. 20, 2015

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