Hi, I’m Oklahoma City Attorney Aaron Easton, and this is part one in a short three-part series discussing your constitutional right to be protected against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, typically done by the governmental arm of law enforcement.
So today, for the first part, we’re gonna talk about where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy and where the court’s determined that you objectively do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
And right at the start, I wanna point out that in order for a search to be deemed unconstitutional by the court, the police must have violated both your subjective reasonable expectation of privacy and an objective reasonable expectation of privacy. Subjective meaning you personally felt like you had an expectation of privacy in the thing or area searched, and objective that the general public would also feel that was an area or item in which you had an expectation of privacy.
Areas Where You Have a Reasonable Expectation of Privacy
First, some of the areas that the court has deemed to be places in which you do have an expectation of privacy are, first and foremost, your home. The US Supreme Court and the Constitution really upholds our rights as individuals to have our home be places of privacy, places where we certainly have an expectation of privacy. And that does also include the curtilage of your home. It’s a term that’s used in law, which means the general area surrounding your home. Think of your doorstep, your porch, within a fenced yard, things of that nature. So the home and the curtilage of the home.
Also, you have an expectation of privacy in your personal property and personal effects. This would include your specific cell phone data, you know, your purses, wallets, things like that. You also have an expectation of privacy in public areas set aside for private use, such as bathrooms available to the public and phone booths, although not sure that’s super pertinent these days.
Areas Where You Do Not Have a Reasonable Expectation of Privacy
A few examples of areas in which the court has determined that you do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy inherently are, first off, things that are viewable and seeable by the public at large. And they include in this category, things such as your fingerprints, your handwriting, and your voice. Those are things that you don’t have an expectation of privacy in.
Also, you don’t have an expectation of privacy in general account information that is accessible by your bank and your cell phone company and things like that. Again, to be differentiated from your personal cell phone data. Another place is things that can be viewed, readily viewed from airspace that is open to the public. And then also an important one that people oftentimes forget about is abandoned property, the garbage you set out on the curb. You no longer have a reasonable expectation of privacy in that.
Learn More About Your Rights and Recourse
Continue on in this series to learn what types of searches are or are not legal by law enforcement specifically. And then if you are the victim of an unconstitutional search, what your recourse in a court of law might be in parts two and three.
So if you have a question about your fourth amendment rights if you think they’ve been violated, you’re gonna wanna talk to an attorney privately and confidentially. And to speak to an attorney at my firm, you can get us online at postconviction.lawyer or on the phone at (918) 932-2833.