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A Commentary on Fourth Amendment Privacy Rights

For various reasons, including 9/11, we have ceded much of our privacy to the Federal, State and local governments. Specifically, the government now has expansive authority to intercept phone calls and e-mails without Warrants signed by judges:  We have little privacy left when we are in our cars, walking on the street or travelling through airports and train terminals. We have stood by while our privacy has diminished because we are told by the government that if we do not give them this authority, then terrorists are more likely to cause death and devastation to us. This is part of the traditional tension between government intrusion and privacy.  We give up certain freedoms and privacy in exchange for safety.

In the context of Criminal Law, the Government’s intrusions into our privacy sometimes reveal information about us that can be used in criminal prosecutions. If this happens, our best defense is to show that the  government has gone too far in their intrusions and that the evidence acquired by these intrusions should be “suppressed” and thrown out of Court, because it was obtained in violation of our Fourth Amendment Constitutional Rights. If such a challenge is successful, then the government’s case can be substantially weakened, or sometimes, based upon what is suppressed, the entire charges can be dismissed.

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which is part of what we refer to as our “Bill of Rights”, says that:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”



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    The Witecki Law Office
(518) 372-2827
8 South Church Street
Schenectady, NY 12305