The Fourth Amendment gives police officers in California and throughout the country the right to perform reasonable searches of a citizen’s property. For a search to be considered reasonable, an officer must have probable cause to believe that he or she will find evidence of a crime. In many cases, an initial search can only take place after an officer receives a warrant from a judge. Search warrants will typically define what authorities are allowed to look for and where they are allowed to look for them.
However, items that are in plain view of an officer may be confiscated if there is reason to believe that they were used to commit a crime. Officers may also open doors or take other precautions to protect themselves prior to or during a search.
In some cases, authorities may be able to perform a search without first getting a warrant. This may be true if a person gives an officer permission to look through a car, a backpack or a cellphone. It may also be true if a person doesn’t have any reasonable expectation of privacy. For instance, authorities may rummage through a trash can that is on the curb because the contents of that trash can aren’t considered to be private. Finally, a search can occur without a warrant if doing so may prevent a crime from occurring.
A person who has been charged with a crime may want to hire a criminal defense attorney to help with his or her case. An attorney might be able to get a case dismissed by arguing that evidence was collected through an illegal search. Alternatively, an attorney may be able to convince a jury that a person’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated, which may lead to an acquittal.