Every citizen should understand their Constitutional rights; Attorney Nicholas Hicks makes it easy.
When the U.S. Constitution was drafted, the founding fathers had specific concerns regarding the protection of citizens against harm caused by a powerful government who might over reach its authority. The 4th Amendment was drafted to, among other things, protect citizens from unreasonable search and seizures. However, although the Constitution prohibits ‘unlawful’ searches and seizure, the 4th Amendment does not prohibit all searches and seizures from occurring. There are Constitutional circumstances that deem certain searches lawful.
Attorney Nicholas Hicks of New York explains some things you need to know regarding your rights under the 4th Amendment.
A citizens’ 4th amendment right against unwarranted interference from the government is weighed against the rightful government’s interests in public safety. Attorney Nicholas Hicks explains that the extent to which the 4th amendment protects a person also depends on the location and circumstances of the search or seizure in question.
Search of a Home
It is considered unreasonable to search someone’s home without a warrant. It is understood, that a person’s home is among the most private of places and should not be disturbed without strong Constitutional justification. Further it is understood that a person’s expectation of ‘privacy’ is greater in one’s abode than in public.
Attorney Nicholas Hicks notes that there are a few exceptions in which a search of a person’s home without a warrant may be acceptable. These exceptions include giving law enforcement consent to search one’s home or law enforcement being in ‘hot pursuit’, meaning that a crime is in progress or has been committed and a suspect is fleeing into a dwelling; Additionally, if the search is incident to a lawful arrest inside of the home and/or illegal items are in plain view (assuming the officer is lawfully in the dwelling to observe the contraband in plain sight) then such searches may be deemed Constitutional.
Search of a Person
If an officer sees unusual behavior that leads him to believe criminal activity may be happening, Attorney Nicholas Hicks explains that the officer can briefly stop the suspicious person. The officer may ask questions and make observations to gather more information. However it is important to note, that unless the officer places the ‘suspicious’ person in custody (i.e., the person is not free to leave) the individual may lawfully walk away.
Search of Vehicles
There is an extensive list of situations that can lead to an acceptable search of an automobile. Attorney Nicholas Hicks explains the concept of ‘probable cause’ concerning automobile stops and searches.
If an officer observes a traffic violation or has reason to know that the specific automobile is stolen (a random plate check) or the occupant(s) are visibly involved in illegal activity, law enforcement may conduct a traffic stop. Although a lawful stop has occurred, it does not necessarily follow that the officer may also search the automobile absent further probable cause that the automobile contains contraband (illegal drugs, weapons etc) or if the automobile is lawfully impounded an ‘inventory search’ of the automobile may be lawfully made. However even if there is no probable cause to search a vehicle, Courts have held that narcotics are nevertheless permitted to walk around the outside of a vehicle at any valid traffic stop, even without other reasonable suspicion.
Further, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed that officers at a U.S. international border may conduct stops and searches without probable cause. Further, Attorney Nicholas Hicks notes that highway sobriety checkpoints may be used lawfully to reduce the dangers of drunk drivers without any probable cause needed. Finally, Attorney Nicholas Hicks notes that in addition to the U.S. Constitution, each State may differ in its own laws regarding procedure as relates to searches, (so long as the State rules do not violate U.S. Constitutional law). Therefore you should check with your individual state laws as well as federal laws to understand the full spectrum of your rights.
About Nicholas Hicks:
Starting from an early age, Nicholas Hicks was rescued from New York City foster care at the age of 5 years old. Nicholas Hicks attended both public and private schools where he eventually graduated from ECC, UB & UB Law School. Nicholas Hicks is now a practicing lawyer in New York.