4th Amendment

Legally reviewed by:
King Law
May 5, 2023

Under the Fourth Amendment’s “Katz” test, the Fourth Amendment is implicated if a suspect’s reasonable expectation of privacy is infringed on. A suspect does not receive Fourth Amendment protection for any information that they knowingly expose to the public. Regarding third parties, a suspect forfeits their reasonable expectation of privacy in certain information just because they have shared it with one other person or a business intermediary. When an individual shares information with a third party, they assume the risk that the third party might turn the information over to the police. Three main groups of third parties are of importance in this area of the law: 

  1. Police informants
  2. Hotel maids, landlords, and house guests 
  3. Companies
Third Parties and the Assumption of Risk Doctrine

Looking first at police informants, the Assumption of Risk Doctrine precludes the application of the Fourth Amendment if a suspect tells information to a friend, who then turns around and gives information to the police. A defendant does not have a justifiable and constitutionally protected expectation that a person whom he is conversing will not then or later reveal the conversation to the police. There is no greater protection simply because the informant is wearing electronic equipment to record the defendant’s words or is wearing a wire that transmits the words immediately to the police. The police themselves are also permitted to go undercover and masquerade as a colleague or fellow criminals to hear and observe evidence of criminal behavior. The critical factor in situations involving police informants is that the defendant must know that the third party is present.

Hotel Maids, Landlords, and House Guests

When it comes to other third parties, such as hotel maids, landlords, and house guests, a suspect cannot reasonably expect that a maid would not see the information they left in plain view in the room. Suspects have implicitly given maids access to the room, so they cannot reasonably assume that she will keep what she sees confidential. The same rules apply to landlords. Police can use the information provided by the maid, landlord, or house guest, to establish probable cause in a warrant application. Once armed with the warrant, the police will be able to enter the premises and conduct a legal search.

Companies as Third Parties

The general rule for companies as third parties is that every time we share information with a private company, we assume the risk that the private company will turn the information over to the police. For example, individuals have no Fourth Amendment rights in the phone numbers they dial or the commercial records they share with banks. Third parties, on the other hand, have their own independent Fourth Amendment rights in the information that is entrusted to them. In some cases, if the third party does not want to cooperate with the government investigation, they can object to the government subpoena. In these instances, the government must go to court to obtain pre-compliance review and approval of the subpoena before the third party will be forced to hand over the information.

If you are facing a legal situation and need assistance understanding your rights under the Fourth Amendment, contact King Law Offices at (888)-748-KING. With years of experience in criminal defense, our team of attorneys can help guide you through the complexities of the law and ensure that your rights are protected. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help and support during this difficult time.

Legally reviewed by:
King Law
Carolina Attorneys
May 5, 2023

This blog post has been reviewed and verified by legal experts at King Law. Our team is dedicated to providing premium legal services with compassion, innovation, trust, and advocacy. Serving Western North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina, we offer flexible meeting options and strive to exceed client expectations with high-quality legal representation and exceptional client relationships.

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