When a Search Is a Search: Knowing Your Fourth Amendment Rights


The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was designed to protect people from abuse at the hands of a powerful government. These days this means that police usually cannot violate your personal privacy without a warrant.

One of the main questions surrounding Fourth Amendment issues is whether the police "searched," or violated your privacy to begin with. The Supreme Court has established two main tests to determine if the police have performed an unreasonable search: the Katz test, and the Jones test.

Katz Test

In Katz v. United States, a man was accused of performing illegal gambling practices in violation of federal gambling laws. The government discovered this and caught the man by placing a listening device onto a telephone booth that the man was using. The Court decided that the listening device, which was used by the police without a search warrant, violated the man's Fourth Amendment rights because the man had a "reasonable expectation of privacy" in his telephone conversation.

The Katz test centers around the idea of "reasonable expectation of privacy." This means if you reasonably could expect to keep something away from the police's view or possession, then the police must get a warrant to search for that thing. For example, if you are a woman carrying a purse, it is totally reasonable to expect the contents of your purse to remain private. Therefore, in order to search the inside of your purse, police usually will need a search warrant.

Jones Test

In United States v. Jones, the Supreme Court added additional protection under the Fourth Amendment by expanding on the Katz test. In this case, a man was suspected of drug trafficking. The police attached a GPS to the man's car and tracked his movements. The Supreme Court decided that since the police physically intruded on the man's property by placing a GPS on his car, they violated his Fourth Amendment rights.

This decision means that police cannot physically intrude on your property without a warrant, regardless of your expectations of privacy. If the government found evidence against you or arrested you as a result of a physical intrusion of your property, you may be able to use that as a defense in your case.


If you have been accused of a crime, knowing these tests may help you with your criminal defense strategy. If the government obtained evidence or arrested you as a result of an unreasonable search or seizure, they may not be able to use the evidence against you in court. Consult with a criminal defense attorneys through firms like Medeiros & Associates if you feel like your Fourth Amendment rights have been violated in any way.


6 August 2015

changing a child's last name after a divorce

When I began the divorce process, I knew that I wanted to change my name back to my maiden name. I no longer wanted to be associated with the family name of the man that I was divorcing. The problem was, I have three kids that all had their father's name. I wanted to know if I would be able to change their last names to my maiden name rather than having them carry that family's name for the rest of their lives. I found out a lot about what it would take and began working to create this blog to help other women wanting to do the same thing.