The Fourth Amendment says that police officers must have a search warrant to enter your home and search through your property. But police in Florida often stop motorists and search their vehicles without a warrant. What is the difference, and how can you protect your rights on the street?

Over the years, courts have ruled that there are different “expectations of privacy” depending on where you are. The higher the expectation of privacy, the more likely it is that the Fourth Amendment’s search warrant requirement will be enforced. When you are in your home, your expectation of privacy from police intrusion is at its highest. Only a few exceptions would allow the police to come into your home without a search warrant or your consent.

Moving vehicles are different

The same is true of your vehicle if it is parked in your garage. But while you are driving or riding in a car on a public road, your expectation of privacy is lower. Thus, if a police officer has a reasonable, articulable suspicion that you or someone else in your vehicle is committing or has just committed a crime, the officer likely has the power to pull you over and search your vehicle without a warrant or consent.

But if you can show that the officer lacked probable cause to pull over your vehicle, your defense attorney may be able to get anything they seized as evidence against you thrown out of court. The law calls illegally obtained evidence “fruit of the poisonous tree” and block it from being used at trial to discourage this behavior by the police.

Making sure illegal evidence is not used against you

Every case is different, but if you are arrested for a felony, your freedom is at stake. To protect your rights, you need to contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as you can after you are arrested.