Search and Seizure and The Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from unlawful search and seizure, reads:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized” (U.S. Const. amend. IV).

The first portion of the Fourth Amendment is intended to protect individual privacy by protecting people from unreasonable search and seizures by the government. A key word in this amendment is unreasonable. To uphold the Fourth Amendment, it must be established and understood what the term unreasonable truly entails.

Reasonableness is a balance between privacy rights and the public interest in the apprehension or search of a person or place. While reasonableness has been established as a standard of police conduct its legal definition continues to evolve. The establishment of reasonableness typically must be determined on a case-by-case basis. Larger intrusions of privacy require greater justification in the eyes of the courts. To determine legality of a search or seizure it must be understood what a police officer knew. This knowledge must be weighed against the level of civil liberty intrusion by the officer. If it is determined that the officer knowledge does not justify the level of intrusion taken the search/seizure is unreasonable and therefore not permitted by law which may result in the suppress of evidence or the dismissal of any charges.

Determination of reasonableness for a search or a seizure can be a complicated task. Not only must you determine the level of knowledge an officer had prior to the search, you must also determine if the level of response was in line with level of information available to the officer. There are also several exceptions to the standard of reasonableness. Some of these exceptions include hot pursuit, exigent circumstances, borders searches, airport searches, as well as searches of prisoners and parolees.

It takes an experienced attorney to determine whether a search or seizure falls under the standard of reasonableness and if an encounter violates any of an individual’s rights. With over 40 years of experience, the lawyers at Cambareri & Brenneck can help to evaluate your case and work to get the best possible outcome possible.



Citation: New York Search & Seizure, 2014 Edition