Why do you need to know about your Fourth Amendment rights?

You have certain rights granted to you by the Constitution, and it is in your interests to know in detail what these rights mean for you. The Fourth Amendment protects you against unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement, something that could be very important if you are ever under investigation for alleged criminal activity. When you know your rights, you will be in a better position to protect them. 

Specifically, the Fourth Amendment protects one’s personal privacy, including the right to freedom from government intrusion into homes, businesses and private property. These limits mean police cannot question you without reason or enter your home without a warrant. Violation of your Fourth Amendment rights could be grounds for legal action. 

Specific protections for you 

Police must have a valid warrant or probable cause to conduct a search. Probable cause means reason exists for police to believe a crime has taken place or is being committed. This is more than a hunch; there must be clear and specific evidence to conduct a search. These protections apply to the following: 

  • Law enforcement’s physical apprehension of an individual for questioning 
  • Searches in areas where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as a home, car or other types of personal property 

There are various scenarios during which the Fourth Amendment clearly applies to your situation. For example, police cannot stop you while you are walking down the street and question you. If pulled over for speeding, police cannot search your vehicle without probable cause to do so. These protections extend to your home and any place of business you operate, which mean police cannot enter your place of work and conduct a search without your permission or a search warrant. 

What happens if they violate your rights? 

If police violate your Fourth Amendment rights, there are options available to you. You have the right to speak up, bringing attention to police oversight and misconduct. A problem with the search and seizure part of your case could be grounds to challenge any evidence against you collected during an illegal search. A careful assessment of your situation and the treatment you received from New Mexico police will help you understand how you can protect your rights and long-term interests.