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Did you have a legitimate expectation of privacy?

If the police carry out a search, there are steps that must be followed. Typically, they need to have probable cause -- they have a reasonable suspicion that a crime happened -- and they need to get a warrant from a judge. Only then can they search your home, your car or anywhere else that you have an expectation of privacy.

In many ways, this expectation of privacy is the real key. If you don't have it, then the police can often search or seize items without a warrant.

For example, perhaps you have a few bottles of prescription drugs, which you obtained illegally. Now, maybe you didn't even know it was illegal -- you just bought them from a friend who didn't need them anymore -- but you still broke the law.

When you got home, you had some yard work to do. You set the bottles on the tailgate of your truck, next to the road. A police officer drove by, saw them sitting on the tailgate and arrested you while seizing them.

Yes, they were on your property and technically sitting on your vehicle, but that doesn't mean you have an expectation of privacy. Anyone could see those bottles, and you had to know it. Police do not need a warrant to seize them, and it doesn't count as a "search."

If you put them inside the house and an officer went in the front door while you were working in the back, without a warrant, then that's an illegal search. You have an expectation of privacy in your home.

For those who are facing charges, it's important to look into all potential legal defense options, especially if you believe police violated your rights.

Source: FindLaw, "Searches and Seizures: The Limitations of the Police," accessed March 29, 2018

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