- June 12, 2019
- Police & You
The Police and You: Constitutional Rights
Constitutional rights are extremely important. The Michigan Supreme Court has taken steps to protect your Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures. Before, the Court held that a legal stop meant a passenger cannot challenge the search of the vehicle. Now, the Court says a person may challenge the search if they can show that they had a legitimate expectation of privacy in the area searched and that their expectation of privacy was one that society is prepared to recognize as reasonable.
The Fourth Amendment guarantees the right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects. It only protects against unreasonable searches. Searches based on consent are often reasonable. There are three ways that a court might find a consent search unreasonable: the consent-giver lacked authority, consent was not voluntary, or the scope of the search exceeded consent.
To invoke your Fourth Amendment rights, you must first establish that you had a legitimate expectation of privacy in the area searched. It must also be an expectation of privacy that society is prepared to recognize as reasonable. Normally, there would not be an expectation of privacy in another person’s car but there can be some exceptions. For example, if you are a passenger in an Uber, Lyft, or other rideshare service, you would expect some type of privacy. If the driver is pulled over and consent to a search of the car, it would not be reasonable for the officer to assume the driver as any authority over your belongings. Even if you are a passenger of a car where the driver isn’t a rideshare servicer, you can challenge a Fourth Amendment violation if you can show you had a legitimate expectation of privacy in the area searched AND it is an expectation that society is prepared to recognize.
A passenger does not lose their rights over their property during searches but it is possible. If it is a search based on consent, the officer must obtain consent from someone with the authority to give it. Be careful, though. If it seems that someone else (i.e., the driver) has authority over your property, they might be able to over consent and it will not be a violation of your rights. But, if it is not reasonable to believe the driver had authority over your property and you had a legitimate expectation of privacy that society is prepared to recognize as reasonable, you may have a legitimate challenge against the search.
It is important to know your Fourth Amendment rights within a search. You need an experienced attorney who has worked with countless examples of unlawful searches. Call the Law Office of John Freeman.