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Unlawful search and seizure: What is a legitimate expectation of privacy

On Behalf of | Nov 8, 2021 | Criminal Defense

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects you from an illegal search and seizure. However, it applies to searches where you have a legitimate expectation of privacy in the possession or place searched. If there is no such reasonable expectation of privacy, then the Amendment offers no protection.

A case in point is where the police placed a wiretap on a public phone booth in an attempt to thwart a gambling ring. The courts stated that there was a legitimate expectation of privacy in a phone conversation even though the conversation took place in a public booth. However, the court also ruled that anything a person knowingly exposes to the public is not protected under the Fourth Amendment regardless of location.

Courts consider two aspects to determine an expectation of privacy

First, you must show an expectation of privacy. For instance, you expect to have privacy in your home, vehicle or even telephone conversations. Also, if someone needs a password to access entry into a space, it means that there is an expectation of privacy. 

Secondly, you must show that your expectation of privacy is reasonable according to society’s expectations. For example, you would not expect the right to privacy when you’re talking on your cell phone in a public place where other people can hear you.

Evidence obtained unlawfully may be suppressed

If the evidence against you was not obtained lawfully, you may file a motion to have it suppressed. Therefore, it is crucial to protect your legal rights throughout the trial by looking at every aspect of your case.