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What Constitutes A Search: Understanding The Reasonable Expectation Of Privacy Standard


The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects against illegal search and seizure. Among other things, it requires that searches be reasonable and that, in most circumstances, law enforcement seek a search warrant based on probable cause. If you are subject to an illegal search, there are remedies available under the law.

This raises an important question: What constitutes a search? It is a more complicated question that many people realize. In this article, our Orlando criminal defense attorney offers an in-depth overview of the most important things that you should understand about the reasonable expectation of privacy standards.

Fourth Amendment Protects People Where there is a “Reasonable Expectation of Privacy” 

One of the key principles of the Fourth Amendment is the “reasonable expectation of privacy” standard. This standard holds that people have a right to privacy in places where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy. This includes private homes, personal vehicles, and personal belongings. However, it does not extend to places where an individual has no expectation of privacy, such as in public spaces.

Understanding the Reasonable Expectation of Privacy Test 

Katz v. United States is a 1967 Supreme Court case in which the nation’s highest court clarified the reasonable expectation of privacy test in Fourth Amendment jurisprudence. Mr. Katz was suspected in an illegal gambling operation. Law enforcement tapped a public pay phone that they believed he used to facilitate the crime. Mr. Katz eventually challenged the evidence based on a Fourth Amendment violation—no warrant was obtained. The court ruled in his favor, finding that Mr. Katz still had a reasonable expectation of privacy while making a phone call on a public pay phone. Even though he was in public, he was not actively broadcasting the information to the public. The Fourth Amendment protects people, not places. 

Charged With a Crime Based on an Illegal Search: Know Your Options 

If you have been charged with a crime based on evidence obtained through an illegal search, it is important to understand your legal options. One of the most effective ways to challenge the evidence against you is by filing a motion to suppress. This motion argues that the evidence should not be admissible in court because it was obtained in violation of your constitutional rights under the 4th Amendment.

In order for a motion to suppress to be successful, the defendant must demonstrate that the search in question was conducted without a valid warrant or without probable cause. What happens if your motion is granted? The evidence from that illegal search can be excluded from the criminal trial. In some cases, this could destroy the prosecution’s case. An experienced Orlando, FL criminal defense lawyer can proactively protect your rights and interests. 

Set Up a Fully Private Consultation With a Central Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

At The Baez Law Firm, we work tirelessly to get justice and the best possible outcome for our clients in misdemeanor and felony cases. If you have any questions about the reasonable expectation of privacy standards and law enforcement searchers, we can help. Contact us today for a fully private appointment with an attorney. From our Orlando law office, our firm serves clients throughout Central Florida, including in Sanford, Apopka, Kissimmee, Winter Park, and Winter Garden.

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