Many people who do not analyze the Fourth Amendment enough do not realize all of its legal stipulations. First of all, what is the Fourth Amendment? According to the Bill of Rights, as amended to the Constitution in 1789 to establish and define essential rights for Americans, the Fourth Amendment is the part of the Bill of Rights which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures, along with requiring any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause.
A common mistake that is detrimental to an individual’s Fourth Amendment rights is waiving his, or her, rights away upon request. If a police officer does not have a search warrant, and they do not meet one of those exceptions, you can legally refuse to let him search you until he gets a warrant.
Another important point is associated with private property. If a police officer is on someones property without a warrant, or his/her permission, and they find incriminating evidence, most courts would rule that he/she cannot be convicted for that associated evidence since the police officer did not have the right to be where he was, which can ultimately destroy the case.
Exceptions police have that will allow them to search you without a warrant:
1. Plain view:
If a federal authority sees anything illegal in plain view, they can search and seize your belongings. For example: Say your blinds are open, you are snorting cocaine, and your window is right next to a public street. If an officer sees this, it is enough for them to search your house without a warrant.
2. Hot pursuit:
If an authority is in hot pursuit of someone, they do not need a warrant to search and seize items from them. For example: Say you were speeding, and a cop attempts to pull you over. Instead of pulling over, you speed up, the cop chases you, and you finally stop miles down the road. The authority now has the ability to search you since you have committed arrest-worthy offenses.
If any authority asks to search you, they do not have a warrant to do so, and you approve, you waive your rights to the federal government. For example: A police officer shows up at your door without a search warrant and asks if they can have a look around. You say yes. The police officer now has the ability to search your home since you gave consent.
4. Checkpoint Stop:
If the police are running a roadblock checkpoint on a road, they are allowed to search your car under certain conditions. The search must be completely unbiased, which means that they must either search every car, or they must have a random system that’s in a designated order. For example: The police can set up a roadblock and search every fourth car that passes by, but not based on race, sex, age, etc.
5. Exigent Circumstance:
Basically, this means that if there is a pressing circumstance, or an emergency, the police have the right to search you. For example: The police get a call from an individual that there is a party going on in a house next door and they believe that there is underage drinking involved.
If the police wait to get a warrant, it may take several hours and the party may already be over. The police must first approach the house, write a report based on what they see. If the police knock on the door and see people that seem underage, this is an exigent circumstance.