The fourth amendment regulates person’s right to be protected from illegal search by police. Probable cause-based search warrant is required to be produced prior to searching of belongings, property or people. However, fourth amendment evolved, and thus several exceptions were introduced to it. As all cases have unique circumstances, law enforcement force representatives have to consider them prior to conducting a search of and individual or business.
The following exceptions to the fourth amendment are considered as most common:
Search incident caused by lawful arrest (an officer can search a person and the area in his / her immediate control when a lawful arrest is made). This is made to ensure officer’s personal safety and keeping of all evidence in one piece.
Items and articles in plain view (if the officer has the right to be in the place, and items are in his / her plain view, he / she can seize them). Officers are allowed to enhance their vision with binoculars and flashlights. If officers have illegally entered the premises, they have no right to seize items in the plain view within the premises.
Vehicle exception is approved by the Supreme Court that ruled mobility of vehicles make the process of obtaining search warrants prior to the search of such vehicles impractical.
Consent. No search warrant is required if the person consents to a search, and the officer is sure that this person has an authority to consent to a search, as consent for a search applies both to natural and legal persons. It is important for consent to be obtained voluntarily, but not due to threats.
Exigent circumstances and hot pursuit. If immediate actions are required under the circumstances, or police is in pursuit of the suspect, or suspect is entering private property, no search warrant is required to ensure preservation of evidence (if they are in danger of destruction or immediate removal) and public safety.
Stop-and-Frisk applies if a person is reasonably suspected of a crime. To ensure officers’ safety, they are allowed to conduct a short pat-down search. Aggressive searches are not allowed and can cause tension between law enforcement officers and community.
To conclude, these exceptions are only some of the most important of those to the fourth amendment. They are introduced to ensure safety of the community and, in most cases, personal safety of the officers.