Police investigations in Texas involve varying levels of intensity based upon the nature of the crime. Some searches need a warrant, which is a court-issued document giving police the legal right to search a suspect’s property or person. Law enforcement searches that require a warrant do so because the Fourth Amendment grants U.S. citizens vast protections from unreasonable search and seizures. It is within the confines of probable cause that police can request a warrant from a judge.
Protections of the Fourth Amendment
The Fourth Amendment is far reaching in protecting the privacy of the American people. It details who and what is protected from warrantless searches as well as what criteria is required to conduct a proper search. It states, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.” These rules apply specifically to government representatives.
Unlawful searches can weaken a defense
There are stop-gap measures in place to prevent abuse of police powers in searches executed outside of Fourth Amendment protections. If a subject has an expectation of privacy, police may have difficulty getting a warrant. To address this issue, the Supreme Court developed two questions to measure whether a genuine expectation of privacy exists: Does a subject believe that their abode or property shields their privacy? Secondly, are the particulars of one’s expectation of privacy communally accepted?
If a search is deemed illegal, the personal effects collected cannot be used as evidence. This “exclusionary rule” was put in place to dissuade questionable, warrantless searches. Were further evidence to have been discovered based on an illegal search, this “fruit of the poisonous tree” would be disallowed in court, possibly resulting in a criminal case being dismissed.
While searches are a routine part of police investigations, the Fourth Amendment ensures that these searches are in accordance with applicable rights under the Constitution. It helps keep judicial matters above board and police officers accountable.