The right to be secure in one’s home, property and papers is a right many Ohio residents may take for granted, but those facing drug charges may appreciate this constitutional right. The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution protects Americans from unreasonable behavior by government officials, which means it generally protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.
When a search that violates fourth amendment requirements is conducted, it means it has violated an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy. For example, a strip search or visual body search must be supported by probable cause and conducted in a reasonable manner in order to be reasonable. When the police’s conduct communicates to someone that they are not free to leave at their will, ignoring the police presence, it would constitute an unreasonable seizure.
If the police show their authority, for example with handcuffs or forceful language, and the person to whom it is shown submits to their authority, it may be a seizure for the purposes of the fourth amendment. Generally, an arrest warrant is needed to make lawful arrest under the Fourth Amendment. When it is conducted without a warrant, it needs to be supported by probable cause.
So what is probable cause? It is a flexible concept, one dependent on the circumstances and the court’s interpretation. It generally means that there was a reasonable basis for believing that a crime would have been committed or that the place that has to be searched is going to have the evidence being searched for.
Unreasonableness often renders all actions invalid and improper searches and seizures can be challenged in court. As these types of actions are often taken in drug crimes, it is important to know what constitutional rights one has when facing drug charges and to avail them when appropriate.