Searches in Provo by Private Parties May Require a Warrant

Fourth Amendment Applies Only to the Government

The Fourth Amendment prohibits unlawful searches or seizures in Provo.  A Provo law enforcement officer must receive a search warrant first to search people’s property.  Only in certain circumstances may an officer search without first obtaining a search warrant.

The Fourth Amendment applies only to governmental, not private, conduct in Utah.  Where the actor is an agent of federal, state, or local government, this requirement is met.  Where, however, a private party acting on his own accord acquires evidence that the government later seeks to introduce in a criminal case, neither the Fourth Amendment nor its exclusionary remedy is implicated.

A Private Individual Can Implement the Fourth Amendment

When a private individual acts at the direction of a government agent or pursuant to an official policy in Utah, the search implicates the Amendment.  Thus where a police officer directs an airline or hotel employee to open a travelers suitcase, the Fourth Amendment is triggered.

Two factors considered in determining whether the private party is acting as an instrument of the state are: 1.) the degree of government encouragement, knowledge, or acquiesce with regard to a private actor’s conduct; and 2.) the purpose underlying the private party’s action was pursuing a governmental interests. If the private party acted to promote his own personal or business objectives, the action would be private in nature.

Thus when an airline employee opened a suspicious package and turned the white powder found inside over to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the search was not deemed purely private because: 1.) the employee had previously reported information and turned over packages to the DEA on 11 occasions, sometimes receiving a small payment, and thus acted with the governments acquiescence; and 2.) he testified that he opened the package in order to discover evidence of a crime, with the expectation of a reward from the DEA, and not for any purpose of his employer.  The Fourth Amendment was therefore triggered.

Make Sure Your Property was Searched with a Warrant

Provo law enforcement must have a search warrant to search your property.  A private party must also have a search warrant if he is acting on behalf of law enforcement.  If you have been searched without a warrant then call an attorney from Criminal Defense Provo.  A criminal defense lawyer will help protect your rights and fight to keep materials acquired without a search warrant by police from being used against you in a criminal case.  Call 801.800.8246 for a free consultation.

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