Your Reasonable Expectation of Privacy: Your Right Against Illegal Search & Seizure – Borrowed Vehicle
Article 1 Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution and the 4th &14th Amendment to the United States Constitution protect an individual’s rights against illegal search and seizure. To assert these rights, a person must first establish “” to do so. There is a critical threshold question in any case involving the claim of unlawful search and seizure pertaining to privacy interests. A person claiming an unlawful search and seizure must show a reasonable expectation of privacy in the area searched or items seized to have standing to seek relief in a criminal or civil action under the Pennsylvania or United States Constitution. An expectation of privacy is one that society is prepared to recognize as reasonable. New Jersey maintains a similar search and seizure standing and expectation of privacy requirement.
The issue of expectation of privacy isn’t just confined to vehicle searches but things such as luggage at a train station or airport, common areas in a house shared by friends, or hotel rooms. Pennsylvania and federal courts have recognized standing to establish illegal search and seizure claims for overnight guests and even personal items in a closed bag given to a friend to hold.
Its important to keep in mind that courts will evaluate the reasonable expectation of privacy based on previous case law and arguments from counsel regarding what society would recognize as reasonable.
Warrantless Searches & Borrowed Vehicles in Pennsylvania
Under the United State Constitution, warrantless searches of vehicles are permissible if police can establish probable cause about an item or contraband or evidence of some type of crime is contained in a vehicle. There is no need to establish exigent circumstances based simply on the mobility of the car.
At the federal level, courts have recognized privacy interests in only those items where the defendant can establish ownership. Pennsylvania grants automatic standing to challenge illegal search and seizure claims where a person maintains possession of an item until the owner states otherwise. In Pennsylvania, a defendant who testifies at a suppression hearing as to his or her possession establishes privacy interest in it. Further, Pennsylvania courts have found expectations of privacy for drivers of vehicles where there is no evidence that the car was stolen as well as individuals who borrowed vehicles from friends and family. This is a very important point which your criminal defense lawyer must articulate to a judge in your case. Your criminal defense lawyer must establish a connection between you and the borrowed vehicle.
Unlike federal courts, Pennsylvania courts recognize that police must have search warrants to search vehicles even if there is probable cause to believe that the car contains some evidence of a crime. Outside of consent or some other exigent circumstance other than the mobility of the vehicle, warrantless searches in Pennsylvania are illegal. New Jersey, however, follows the federal standard and permits warrantless searches.
Why vehicle searches are so important to your criminal defense case?
Vehicle searches represent one of the most common starts for criminal investigations which often lead to criminal charges such as illegal narcotic or drug possession, firearms, and in some cases drunk driving (DUI/DWI). If you’re stopped by police, it is important that you never consent to the search of a vehicle even if you are not its owner. Consent will negate all your constitutional rights under the state and US Constitution. You should always assume that you have a right against illegal search and seizure even if a police officer tells you that you do not have such rights.
Your State Constitution Offers a Higher Level of Protection Against Illegal Search and Seizure!
Remember that state constitutions can’t offer less protection than the US Constitution under the Supremacy clause but most states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, offer a greater level of protection.
For more information regarding criminal homicide charges in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, please visit our website.
Contact Our Criminal Defense Lawyers in PA & NJ
Please click here to contact our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers. We offer free case reviews and serve the following areas in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Atlantic City, Camden, Cherry Hill, Chester, Conshohocken, Doylestown, Media, Norristown, Philadelphia, Pottstown, Salem, Upper Darby, Upper Merion, Upper Providence, Vineland & Woodbury areas.