Schlesinger Conrad Law Firm

butler-police-rtr–imgFourth Amendment Rights

The United States Constitution, through the Fourth Amendment, protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.  The Fourth Amendment, however, is not a guarantee against all searches and seizures, but only those that are deemed unreasonable under the law.

In determining if you have a case for unreasonable search and seizure, the courts will attempt to balance the interest of privacy, and your right to be free from intrusion, against the government’s interests including public safety and law enforcement.

The area of law is governed first by federal law, and the cases from the United States Supreme Court will both set the outer limits and provide the framework for lower court decisions.  In the context of invasions into your home, for example, Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573 (1980).addresses searches and seizures inside a home without a warrant are presumptively unreasonable. But there are significant exceptions, including exigent circumstances.  Exigent circumstances arise when there is an emergency, such as the imminent threat to life.  The balance in that circumstance is fairly straightforward: Your right to privacy is trumped by someone else’s right to safety,   Other exceptions will include instances where the person in control of the property gives consent for entry, if the search is incident to arrest, and items of contraband are in plain sight or where the arrestee could reach them, endangering an officer.  See, e.g., Maryland v. Macon, 472 U.S. 463 (1985).

Some of the leading search and seizure cases in the Ninth Circuit, which includes Arizona and California, are:

  • Cuevas v. De Roco (9th Cir. 2008) 531 F.3d 726 – citizen had a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 where officer forced his way into home looking for a parolee where his information was not current or reliable, and officers opened a drawer in the residence; .
  • U.S. v. Perea-Rey (9th Cir. 2012) 680 F.3d 1179 — an agent may not enter a carport and search without a warrant as this invades the curtilage (surrounding area) of the defendant’s home;
  • People v. Superior Court (2006) 143 Cal.App.4th 1183 – a student’s dormitory room was protected by Fourth Amendment, and the housing contract signed upon enrolling did not waive those rights.
     If you feel your civil rights were violated by an unreasonable search, please contact Schlesinger Conrad at 602-812-3661 or by e-mail at  Be aware, time is of the essence as you may have only a short time to file a claim. 
    This website is for informational purposes only and its use and the information stated herein does not create an attorney–client relationship.

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