Let's say you and a few friends are hanging out at your home watching a major sports event on TV. Suddenly, a loud knock at the door startles everyone in the room, and as you approach the entrance to your home, you notice several people who appear to be uniformed Tennessee police officers outside your window. You crack open the door and the official-looking people show you badges and ask if they can come in and have a look around.
Although you're now convinced they are legitimate law enforcement agents, you aren't sure what to do next. One of the officers asks you to confirm your identity, which you do. Beyond that, you aren't sure whether you're required to let them in or if you can refuse. Clarifying your rights ahead of time may help you make informed decisions when problems arise.
You have rights under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution
Many people have never read the U.S. Constitution, and although they may have vague ideas about their civil rights, they aren't sure of the specifics regarding which amendments protect which rights. With regard to police entry into your home and any search and seizure process that may follow, it is the Fourth Amendment that most directly pertains to your situation. Following are a few basic facts about this amendment:
- It protects you from unreasonable search and seizure.
- It also protects your right to privacy.
- In most situations, this means police must produce valid search warrants before they enter your home or search your property, vehicle or person.
- In order for the Fourth Amendment to apply, your situation must include a reasonable expectation of privacy in the first place.
- When privacy is at issue, you generally must prove you truly expected the item or property being searched to remain private.
- Even if you rent your home, the Fourth Amendment still protects your right to privacy.
There are many people in Tennessee who have been able to successfully avoid conviction when facing drug charges by acting alongside experienced defense attorneys who challenge the actions of police officers in court. In fact, sometimes a judge dismisses charges altogether when evidence exists to show unlawful searches and seizures have taken place. Other times, a judge may deem certain portion of alleged evidence inadmissible in court.
If your evening at home is interrupted by police officers who wind up pressing drug charges against you, it may a long time before you are able to enjoy another quiet evening at home. For this and many other reasons, it's often best to reach out for experienced assistance in the hope of getting life back on track as soon as possible.