The Constitution establishes basic rights for all Americans, and the first 10 amendments to the Constitution expand those protections. That is why people refer to those first 10 amendments as the Bill of Rights.
For those facing criminal charges or investigation by law enforcement, few civil rights are as important as the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment extends the protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
How does this protect you when you get arrested or police officers suspect your involvement in crime?
The Fourth Amendment allows you to say no
If police officers want to come into your house or go through your car to look for evidence of a crime, you do not have to give them permission. While it is true that they can get a warrant, they cannot force you to give your consent to a search.
Police officers can only force their way onto a property in very limited circumstances. These include probable cause of a crime in progress and hot pursuit of a suspect. The Supreme Court has recently ruled that hot pursuit of a suspect is not always a justification to force entry onto someone’s property. If the offense is only a misdemeanor, the police will need to go get a warrant rather than knock down a door to make an arrest.
You need to know your rights to assert them. Police officers count on you not understanding your basic rights when you interact with them. They will ask you innocent questions to prompt you into waiving your rights. Once you let them into your house or agree to a cursory search of your vehicle, they will have an easy time justifying their decision to continue searching even if you ask them to stop. Understanding your rights under the 4th Amendment will give you the courage to say no as necessary.
The Fourth Amendment allows you to fight back
If police officers seize your property but never charge you with a crime, you could potentially take them to court to seek the return of your property. You can also hold them accountable for a search that violated your rights if they do charge you with a crime.
If you notice obvious violations of your Fourth Amendment rights, you can potentially use those as part of your defense strategy. Challenging evidence gathered in violation of your rights could play an important role as you defend yourself against criminal charges.