The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution is a fundamental societal safeguard in the United States that prohibits law enforcement from conducting unjustified searches and seizures. In this article, we’ll go over the key elements of the Fourth Amendment and help you determine what to do if you believe your Fourth Amendment rights have been violated.
What Is the Fourth Amendment?
The Fourth Amendment protects every person in the U.S. (regardless of citizenship) against unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement. It requires that all such actions by law enforcement be conducted on the basis of an official warrant issued by a judge, which, in turn, must be based upon probable cause.
The text of the Fourth Amendment reads:
Specifically, the Fourth Amendment impacts the legality of police actions in the following ways:
1. Probable Cause and Legal Standards
In simple terms, probable cause means law enforcement must have good reason to believe that a crime has been committed. Any evidence obtained through search and seizure without probable cause is not admissible in court.
Even though “probable cause” is mentioned specifically in the Fourth Amendment, it is not actually defined anywhere in the U.S. Constitution.
2. Excessive Force
In the landmark 1989 case Graham v. Connor, the Supreme Court established the standard of “objectively reasonable” force based on the circumstances.
3. Qualified Immunity
In relation to the Fourth Amendment, law enforcement officers receive qualified immunity in cases in which it can’t be clearly established that their use of force was excessive.
What to Do If You Believe Your Fourth Amendment Rights Were Violated
If you suspect your Fourth Amendment rights have been violated, there are legal options available to you. Any evidence that was obtained by police through an unlawful search or seizure can be suppressed, and you may even have the option to file a civil lawsuit for damages. Your best course of action is to consult with an excessive force lawyer in Phoenix as soon as possible. They can listen to the details of your situation and advise you on what kinds of specific steps are most appropriate in your scenario.
Keep in mind that your right to record the police in public spaces is protected by the First Amendment. Recording interactions with law enforcement is a way for ordinary people to hold law enforcement officials accountable for potential abuses.
Knowing Your Fourth Amendment Rights
Knowledge is a powerful tool — understanding the protections extended by the Fourth Amendment to everyone in the United States is essential for safely navigating encounters with law enforcement. If you think your rights have been violated, seek legal advice right away.