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Can the Police Peek in Your Windows?

a window with a white frame and a railing

Generally, in Florida, police cannot search a person’s property without a search warrant or consent from the owner of that property—unless some type of exception applies. Under the Fourth Amendment, people have a reasonable expectation of privacy and government may not engage in an unreasonable search and/or seizure.

When they do, the evidence that they obtained can often be suppressed, meaning it cannot be used in court. This often results in a case being dropped by the prosecution or dismissed by a judge, which is the best outcome a defendant can hope for in a criminal case. As a result, anyone facing a criminal charge should review the case with a lawyer.

What Is Reasonable Expectation Of Privacy?

According to the Fourth Amendment analysis of search and seizure, an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy stretches to the scope of his land and curtilage. Curtilage is described as the area surrounding your property. Any walls or fences you put up for your right to privacy should be respected. Supreme Court case Katz v. United States established a reasonable expectation of privacy test. This test creates a two-factor analysis:

  • An individual has exhibited some sort of expectation of privacy
  • This expectation of privacy is reasonable for the society

The land surrounding your property qualifies as exhibiting some sort of expectation of privacy, and it also fulfills the second part of the test by being within reasonable means.

What Are Some Exceptions to Reasonable Expectation of Privacy?

The following are exceptions to the rule:

  • If the police have a valid search warrant or arrest warrant
  • If the police have probable cause or a credible tip from an informant
  • If the police have valid consent from the property owner or a valid third party
  • If the police arrested someone on that property
  • Plain view doctrine

Third party consents can especially be complicated. In most instances, a valid third party would include the spouse of the property owner, or parents to a minor. However, minors are not allowed to give consent.

What Is Plain View Doctrine?

Plain view doctrine allows a police officer to lawfully seize evidence without a warrant if he passes the three-prong test:

  • The officer is lawfully present at the place
  • The officer has a right to access the evidence
  • The evidence is in plain view

What Are Your Rights if a Police Officer is Looking Through Your Window?

In the event that a police officer is peeking through your window, you have the right to refuse consent to search your property. You may also refuse to answer any questions the police may have for you. If they attempt to press charges against you as a result of them peeking through your window, you should talk to an attorney as the product of most illegal searches and seizure is considered “fruit of the poisonous tree” and can often be suppressed as evidence.

Contact a Florida Criminal Defense Attorney Today to Schedule a Free Consultation

Unreasonable search and seizure is a violation of your constitutional rights. If you or anyone in your family have been in a similar situation, contacting an attorney is critical to suppress any evidence that resulted from this violation. Here at Khonsari Law Group, we focus our practice on criminal defense cases and know how to spot constitutional violations that can help our clients. Call us today at (727) 269-5300 for a free consultation or send us an email through our online contact form.

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