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search, East Hartford criminal defense attorneyThe Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees citizens the right to be free from “unreasonable searches and seizures.” The operative word in that phrase, however, is “unreasonable.” Over the last 240 years, courts at every level have attempted to define what constitutes an unreasonable search or seizure in a variety of situations. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court was presented with two conflicting interpretations of the Fourth Amendment—one as it applies to a person’s home and the other as it applies to a person’s vehicle.

Collins v. Virginia

The case originated in Albemarle County, Virginia in June 2013 where a rider on a distinctive orange and black motorcycle fled and eluded police at high rates of speed twice in the period of several weeks. The police used found the person they believed to be in possession of the motorcycle and that the motorcycle was likely to have been stolen. Using social media, the police were able to link the suspected owner/rider to an orange and black motorcycle. Social media also allowed police to find an address for the suspect.


cell phone, Hartford criminal defense attorneyIn 2014, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the police could not force a person to allow his or her cell phone to be searched unless a warrant was obtained first—even if the person was arrested. Today, however, as technology has continued to advance, school students are more likely than ever to have mobile devices with them in the classroom. If a teacher suspects that a student is violating school rules on his or her phone or tablet, does the teacher have the right to check the student’s device? Connecticut could be about to answer that question as a proposed privacy measure is making its way through the state’s legislature.

Constitutional Protections

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable and improper searches and seizures of personal property. Over the years, case law has clarified what constitutes reasonable and proper searches, but such limitations, in general, only apply to law enforcement agencies and government entities.


apartment, Hartford criminal defense attorneyIn the realm of criminal law, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides one of the most basic rights afforded to citizens of this country. The Fourth Amendment states that an individual’s right to security regarding his or her person, home, and belongings may not be violated by unreasonable searches and seizures. It further specifies that a warrant for a search by the government shall only be issued when probable cause exists and is supported by a sworn or affirmed statement.

While the rights guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment sound simple enough in theory, the definition of an unreasonable search or seizure has been consistently debated for nearly two and half centuries since the amendment’s ratification. Recently, the Connecticut Supreme Court added another chapter to the discussion as it issued its ruling on a case involving a drug-sniffing dog working in the hallway of an apartment complex.

Different Rights for Different Homes?


apartment, fourth amendment, Hartford criminal defense attorneyIn 2013, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling in Florida v. Jardines, a case that involved the presence of a drug-sniffing dog on the porch of a suspect’s home without a warrant. The dog’s behavior on the porch and around the home suggested to law enforcement officers that there were illegal drugs inside the home. Based on the dog’s alert, the police obtained a warrant, searched the home, and arrested the suspect for marijuana trafficking. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court held that the area “immediately surrounding and associated with home is part of the home for Fourth Amendment purposes,” and that the introduction of the drug-sniffing dog with a warrant based on probable cause was a violation of the owner’s Fourth Amendment rights.

Precedent for Apartments?

From a practical standpoint, the high court’s ruling in Jardines applies fairly easily to single family dwellings and duplexes that share very little common area. But do the same Fourth Amendment rights apply to those who live in apartments, condos, and other homes with shared hallways and public spaces? In the federal court system, circuits around the country have been divided on the issue, which may be an indication that the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately need to put the matter to rest. Meanwhile, the Connecticut Supreme Court is expected to rule on a case very similar to Jardines, but that involved a drug-sniffing dog in the common hallway of an apartment building in Hartford County.


mobile phone, tracking, Connecticut Criminal Defense AttorneyMost Americans understand the general protections offered by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Its provisions are meant to guarantee the security of people, their homes, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. Only a warrant, based on probable cause, is to give the government the power to override a person’s right to privacy.

The digital age, however, continues to offer new and increasingly ambiguous challenges to the application of law enforcement as it pertains to the Fourth Amendment. The latest example, involving the use of mobile phone records without a warrant, is now headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, a case that is likely to set a precedent for many future decisions.

United States v. Quartavious Davis

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