Search and Seizure – Understanding Your 4th Amendment Rights

The Constitution serves to provide citizens of the United States with specific rights. The 4th Amendment helps protect your privacy no matter where you are. There are both safeguards and exceptions to the constitutional right. Here is what you need to know about the 4th Amendment. 

What is the 4th Amendment?

The 4th Amendment prevents people from experiencing unreasonable searches. It offers you protection from unwarranted seizures of property by the government. Law enforcement must have probable cause to search someone’s body, house, etc. 

The 4th Amendment is the basis for stop-and-frisk, search warrants, and wiretaps. 


In many cases, police officers require a warrant to search and seize a person’s private space. A neutral magistrate judge will issue these warrants. Law enforcement must present facts that show they have probable cause before they can receive one. 

Another requirement of warrants is the particularity. A particularity is the description of the property that is to be seized. The requirement helps prevent general searches and non-listed items from getting taken.

Legal Searches Without a Warrant

There are times when officers can search and seize without a warrant. Some examples include: 

  • Stop-and-frisk. Police officers can briefly stop those they suspect of criminal activity. 
  • Search incident to arrest. Officers can fully search someone they arrested and save it as evidence. 
  • Vehicle searches. The police can search a car if they suspect there is an illegal substance. 
  • Consent searches. People can give voluntary consent to a search. 
  • Plain view. Officers do not need a warrant if the item is in plain sight. 

The Exclusionary Rule

The Exclusionary Rule is the protection from illegally obtained evidence. Any items that got collected during an illegal search must be omitted from evidence. The rule even protects you from a confession you made before you could get a lawyer. 

Exceptions to the rule include the good-faith exception and the independent source doctrine.

Bailey Law Firm

Have your 4th Amendment rights been violated? Contact us at Bailey Law Firm to learn how to handle improper search and seizure. We specialize in  criminal defense and are located in Columbia, SC.