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What constitutes an unreasonable search and seizure?

Residents of Washington State and any other state in the country are lucky to live in a free nation that protects its citizens from government overreach. For example, the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects people against unreasonable searches and seizures. While the notion of what type of search is reasonable is rather slippery in the eyes of the law, in general the key is whether the individual had a legitimate right to expect privacy in the place being searched. There is a two-prong test that is used when determining whether such a right to expect privacy exists.

First, there must be an actual expectation of privacy. To meet this element, the accused must demonstrate that there was a true expectation of privacy, not merely that they "might" or "often" have an expectation of privacy in that particular place. Second, the accused's expectation of privacy must be reasonable to society as a whole -- that is, it is objective. In the end, though, it is often not cut-and-dried as to when and where a person has an expectation to privacy.

Take, for example, one's home. In general, it is agreed that a person has an expectation to privacy where he or she lives. Therefore, law enforcement cannot perform a search and seizure of someone's home without a warrant except under certain circumstances such as the imminent destruction of evidence.

Automobiles, on the other hand, do not have such a high expectation of privacy. Although a person might think that they have a right to privacy in their automobile, this is more difficult to prove. That being said, when it comes personal objects used to hold things, such as a bag, purse or briefcase, the right to privacy may be honored. Of course, there are always exceptions. For example, even if trash is hidden in a trash bag and placed in a trash can, a search may still be permissible. Also, a search of an envelope may also be permissible.

When a person is charged with a federal crime or other crime after what they believe to be an unreasonable search and seizure, they may be very concerned about what their future holds. Of course, they want to maintain their innocence and receive a favorable verdict, but this is not always easy to do. Fortunately, help is available to people in such situations, so their rights can be upheld.

Source:  , "Search and Seizure Law," accessed Feb. 10, 2018

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