The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution states that you have protections against the search and seizure of your property by the government. However, the government can search and seize your property if it has reasonable evidence or suspicion of illegal activity.
The law must consider the search reasonable, which typically requires the input of a judge, but there are exceptions. This is what you should know about your protection under the Fourth Amendment.
Who or what receives protection?
Individuals and their businesses both receive protection under the Fourth Amendment. However, police officers can ask you questions if they suspect or observe actions that suggest criminal activity.
In addition, government officials need a warrant to search a business, and the officials need to follow the warrant exactly. Therefore, if the computer systems are not on the warrant, the government agents cannot search them. However, if the company receives government money, has government contracts or is in an industry with significant regulations, the business typically has no expectation of privacy.
What about search warrants?
Search warrants involve a judge, such as a magistrate judge, who reviews the case evidence and makes a decision about whether to grant a warrant. Typically, the judge needs to believe this property houses evidence.
Warrants are not required for searches at the national borders. In addition, when the police arrest suspects, they can search the area around where the arrest occurred in areas the suspects could reach at the time of the arrest. Finally, exigent circumstances may overrule the warrant requirement. For example, if the police suspect that someone is destroying evidence, they can search without a warrant.
If law enforcement gathers evidence without a warrant or in violation of the Fourth Amendment, a judge can exclude it from the case because it was unlawfully obtained.