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What is expectation of privacy?

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures by the police. However, if you are a Nebraska citizen facing a police search, you may be unclear as to what is reasonable and what is not.

According to FindLaw, there are certain areas where you as a citizen have a legitimate expectation of privacy. This does not mean that the police can never search these areas or possessions; rather, it means that the police must first show probable cause and obtain a warrant before a search can occur.

When it comes to personal possessions carried in purses, briefcases or bags, the courts have generally upheld your expectation of privacy. However, it is important to note that the Fourth Amendment does not apply to security guards hired through private enterprise, only to officials of the government.

With very few exceptions, you have a reasonable expectation of privacy inside your own home. This means that police must have a warrant to search your home except in pressing circumstances, such as when they have a reason to believe that you will destroy evidence prior to the issuance of a warrant. Your car, however, is a different matter, as the law has regularly given a lowered expectation of privacy to automobiles. 

There is a two-part test that the Supreme Court has established to determine if your expectation of privacy is legitimate. First, your expectation of privacy must be actual and apply to a specific situation. Second, your expectation has to be objectively reasonable in the eyes of society, represented by a jury in the case of criminal disputes. 

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

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