Search and seizure rights are often infringed upon due to the uncertainty and overall ambiguous laws set in place for a person’s individual rights during a search and seizure process. Laws concerning search and seizure have never seemed to be able to catch up with the modern demand for the laws concerning search and seizure. The laws surround search and seizure have evolved over the years, but seemingly at a much slower rate than what is necessary to avoid infringement of the rights of the people the laws are supposed to protect.
The Fourth Amendment in the United States Bill of Rights guarantees a citizen of the United States of America the right against searches on their premises and seizure of their personal property (“Search and Seizure” and the Fourth Amendment). This right extends to a person’s homes, businesses, and personal property. This law will also protect an individual in any cases where a police officer is attempting to make an arrest or gather evidence against an individual (“Search and Seizure” and the Fourth Amendment).
In relationship to the criminal law level, the Fourth Amendment protects a person against any form of search and seizure of their personal property (“Search and Seizure” and the Fourth Amendment). This right extends to a person where any sort of law enforcement official is attempting to gather evidence or make an arrest. This right protects a person where an individual may have any reasonable expectation of privacy (“Search and Seizure” and the Fourth Amendment).
The Fourth Amendment provides certain protections to American citizens during searches, seizures, and detentions, preventing unlawfully acquired items from police searches from being used as evidence in criminal cases. Each case yields a different degree of protection based on the nature of the case, the nature of the detention or arrest, the characteristics of a place, the characteristics of the place searched, and the circumstances under the search takes place.
Police rights in search and seizure law is very cut and dry. A police officer will often have to go through search and seizure procedures in a case against a suspected criminal. If the officer suspected that the person was, in fact, a criminal and a search of the person’s material belongings was to be performed, a valid search warrant, arrest warrant, or belief of probable cause of a crime to have transpired (“Search and Seizure” and the Fourth Amendment).
However, according to Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary, “A search and seizure by a law enforcement officer without a search warrant and without probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime is present. Such a search or seizure is unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment (applied to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment), and evidence obtained from the unlawful search may not be introduced in court.” (Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary).
More often than not, a police’s power is used on the grounds of probable cause or with the “In plain view” doctrine. Probable cause is defined, as the belief that a crime has been, or is about to be committed. In plain view, simply means, if something unlawful is in plain sight or view in an area where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, the police officer is able to intervene and handle the situation appropriately, which can result in an arrest (“Search and Seizure” and the Fourth Amendment).
In case an individual’s Fourth Amendment rights are violated, there are legal processes that can be performed in order to rectify the situation. In order for a person’s Fourth Amendment rights to be considered “violated” an arrest would have to be made against the citizen in question. Then, the arrest would have to be unsupported by the idea of probable cause or unsupported by a valid search warrant specifically targeting the offender and certain items the offender may possess. Also, a search conducted by a law enforcement official upon a homeowner’s property without a search warrant or special circumstance would be considered invalid. Evidence used in a case against the homeowner, relating to the evidence seized would, in fact, be invalid and thus, useless in a criminal case against the homeowner.
Being unable to use evidence in a criminal proceeding due to an unlawful search is referred to as The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree. The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree doctrine is a very cut and dry piece of legislature. The doctrine basically says that any evidence discovered be means deemed unconstitutional, be it a forced confession or illegal search and seizure, will not be used as evidence against a criminal defendant being charged for a crime relative to the evidence.
Search and seizure law can seem tricky, outdated, or even hard to understand and in many cases it is out of date. Laws concerning search and seizure have been mastered by those in law enforcement and can easily be used to trap a person. The law enforcement official may have the evidence thrown out on one crime but the evidence can still be used in a similar crime committed. Search and seizure laws do not protect the public as well as the laws should. Updates need to be made to laws and the time for updates is way overdue.