Search and Seizure FAQ

When is a police investigation considered a search?

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When is a police investigation considered a search?

A police investigation constitutes a search if it intrudes on a person's "legitimate expectation of privacy." Courts ask two questions to determine whether a person had a legitimate expectation of privacy in the place or things searched:

  • Did the person expect some degree of privacy?
  • Is the person's expectation reasonable -- that is, one that society is willing to recognize?

If the answer to either of the above questions is "no," then the investigation is not a "search." (To learn more about what constitutes a legitimate expectation of privacy, see Understanding Search-and-Seizure Law.)

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