When a Mississippi resident sees police officers on their doorstep or lights flashing in their rearview mirror, they often forget they have certain rights under the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution that can be violated.
When officers conduct a search, whether it be of a person or a residence, it has to legal. Legality is judged by balancing the intrusion of the Fourth Amendment rights against the governmental interest of public safety.
Fourth Amendment rights revolve around the location of the search and seizure:
- Police officers searching inside a home need a warrant. A search and seizure without a warrant is considered presumptively unreasonable, unless consent has been given, the search is pursuant to a lawful arrest or if items are in plain view.
- People can be reasonably questioned if a police officer sees behavior that makes him or her suspect some criminal activity might be happening. At that point, the police may briefly stop the person and ask reasonable questions.
- On school grounds, student searches by school officials are reasonable at all times, even without a warrant.
- If police reasonably believe some there is evidence of some criminal activity in a vehicle, an officer may legally search the car wherever the evidence may be present.
If a search and seizure was conducted violating the suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights, then any evidence seized may be dismissed. This is why a strong criminal defense can challenge what constitutes reasonable belief of criminal activity in court, as well as other aspects of the arrest.