Reasonable Expectation of Privacy

The Fourth Amendment provides all people should be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement officers. In order for a person’s Fourth Amendment rights to apply however, there must be a reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to the place searched or the item seized. Whether or not a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy is determined based on a totality of circumstances in any given case, but generally a person does have an expectation of privacy under the following circumstances:

  1. The person owned or had a right to possess the place searched.
  2. The place searched was in fact the person’s home, whether or not the person actually owned the property or had a right to possess it.
  3. The person was an overnight guest of the owner of the property searched.

Thus if you are living in the place searched, it is your home, or you are an overnight guest of the place, you most likely have a reasonable expectation of privacy and the Fourth Amendment rights against search and seizure apply. A person does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in objects or property which are public in nature.

Examples of No Reasonable Expectation of Privacy

Court’s have held one does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the following:

  • Sound of one’s voice.
  • One’s handwriting.
  • Paint on the outside of one’s vehicle.
  • Account records held by a bank.
  • The location of one’s vehicle on public roads or its arrival at a private residence.
  • Areas outside the home and related buildings, such as a barn.
  • Garbage left for collection.
  • Land visible from a public place, even from a plane or helicopter.
  • The smell of one’s car or luggage.

Some of these instances cited above might surprise most people such as the fact there is no privacy to bank records, although there are some exceptions to that rule. Additionally, police going through garbage is a common scenario but your garbage does not enjoy Fourth Amendment protections. Often in drug manufacturing cases, the police will have gone through a defendant’s garbage and discovered evidence which later cannot be suppressed.

Provo Utah Criminal Defense Attorney

If you believe your rights of privacy and Fourth Amendment rights have been violated in a police search or seizure, we would like to help and hold the state accountable. A Provo Utah Criminal Defense Attorney is standing by to take your call, answer your email, and help you right away.

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