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Outside of students preparing for a high school civics test, knowledge of each Constitutional Amendment and its applications is not something that many people have at the ready. This is understandable. After all, how many people in North Carolina work with Constitutional law on a daily basis? 

Unfortunately, some police officers use this to their advantage. An untold number of unjust arrests happen every day, and it is possible that yours might be one of them. 

What is the Fourth Amendment? 

The Fourth Amendment protects your privacy and keeps you safe from any type of unreasonable government intrusion in your life. In criminal law, people most often view this through the lens of search and seizures. 

So, what does this mean for you? You have a reasonable expectation of privacy in your home, your vehicle and on your person. The keyword here is reasonable, as this only applies in situations where you legitimately expect privacy. For example, the expected level of privacy is very different between something you store in your closet at home and something you leave in plain sight on the seat of your vehicle. 

Was the search at my arrest legal? 

There are typically three situations in which a police officer may conduct a search when you otherwise legitimately expect privacy. These are when an officer possesses: 

  • An arrest warrant 
  • A search warrant 
  • Probable cause that you committed a crime 

It is obvious that officers have the right to conduct searches when they possess either an arrest or search warrant, but what about that pesky probable cause? Probable cause is a common claim when an officer searches a person’s vehicle during a traffic stop. Many officers use generic examples when justifying their reasoning, such as a person sitting too rigidly or traveling a few miles over or under the posted speed limit, even when these behaviors did not contribute to suspicion of probable cause. 

Your evidence might be inadmissible 

You can realize a number of benefits if you successfully demonstrate that there was a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. Evidence collected through unjust search and seizures will be inadmissible, and you can even exclude confessions from the case. 

A criminal background can make life complicated and may even prevent you from taking advantage of certain employment and education opportunities. Like most defendants in North Carolina, you are well advised to take early action against any charges you face. Doing so will help ensure that you and your respective counsel fully understand the charges, evidence and nature of the arrest, which is essential for constructing a solid defense.