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Expectation of Privacy in Police Procedures

Updated on November 7, 2013


Expectation of privacy comes from the constitutional idea that people have the right "to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures" For a warrant to be valid it must be based upon probable cause and must also specify the scope and limits of the search.

What to Expect?

How much privacy we can expect also depends on the nature of the information (medical records, communication over the internet and phone records, academic records, banking and credit information) and what are the government interests in that information (retrieve medical information for employment, have access to phone calls to locate a caller for investigation, etc.). A reasonable effort is required to show that one is expecting privacy, otherwise privacy is dismiss.


In the state of California, offenders are not given any privacy rights other than the ones already given under the constitution. Other states may introduce prepositions for more privacy rights besides the basic constitutional protections, known as independent state grounds within the state geographical limits.


Medical procedures involve no privilege when it comes to criminal activities or searches.

1) Hospitals and medical personnel (EMTs, doctors, nurses) must declare any statements given by victims, offenders, or witnesses.

2) Records of victim status after the crime as to the wounds caused, degree of medical care provided, and further medical assistance must be released upon court or police request.

3) Medical and mental health of witness is relevant for testimony impeachment or rehabilitation. Handicap, blind, deaf, and witnesses with other medical incapability may testify to the best of their capabilities (blinds can testify as to what they heard).

4) Medical and health conditions of patients and witnesses are relevant. Mentally disable witnesses cannot take the stand and testify in California.

5) Any statements given from victims regarding their wounds, pain, and statements about possible death will count as dying declarations.

6) Health provider personnel are required to testify in court as to the dying declarations or statements of victims who happen to die.



One has all the privacy expected to talk to a pastor or religious leader or counselor. This involves any spiritual advice only; conversations about criminal activities having nothing to do with spiritual relief are not protected.

1) Conversation can have content as to criminal activities when the offender is seeking spiritual advice and religious relief. Does not apply for mere criminal counseling.

2) If the conversation takes place in a group, then all members are protected and police or court cannot obtain statements.

3) If any one not interested in the conversation could listen, and no greater efforts form the defendant were made to up keep privacy, then there was no expectation of privacy.


Spouses and Marriage

Relationships between spouses are the most intimate and considered deserving more privacy. Spouses are protected in all verbal, action, and confessional forms.

1) One spouse cannot testify against another if the other spouse does not agree to testify against one another. (Communication privileges)

2) One spouse can testify against another even if the other spouse does not want him/her to testify. (Non communication privilege)

3) Spouses cannot be required to speak as to the statements or actions of the offending spouse, unless one spouse gives up the privacy privilege.


Attorney Client

Any statements given to an attorney are protected. There are some restrictions to what can be said and can be released for court interest in public safety and law enforcement priorities.

1) Any statement given to an attorney is confidential. One needs not to hire the attorney or pay any fare for the mere consultation.

2) Foreign attorneys are confidential as well.

3) Attorneys are required to speak when the statements the defendant is giving are different than the statements previously told in the confidential conversation. One cannot lie under oath or defraud the court.

4) Attorneys are required to release any information regarding threats for someone else, the defendant himself, or any threats for others.

5) Legal advice applies for committed crimes only, one cannot ask advice for further crime in preponderance of further criminal activity.


Property and Housing

The Fourth amendment guarantees the police will not do any unreasonable search or seizure. This means a person has the peace to be secure in his person, documents, property, house and person against any search or seizure not supported by probable cause. It means police will not intervene unless probable cause, at least 50% probability about a crime or contraband presence, is supported.

1) Plain view observations (mere looking into) are not considered visual searches, but any object blocking plain sight (a fence, barrier, cover) indicates suspect’s efforts to keep privacy. Blankets or covers must be long enough to leave no visual clues of what is being covered. Fence must be high enough so no person over average height can see over to the other side. Fence must complete block sight, no holes or cracks that could allow any one too see through.

2) One-night guests are guaranteed full rights of homeowners, they have been given full access to intimate parts of the house (bathroom, bedroom, kitchen) and have full protection inside home and on the items they conceal.

3) Extensions to the house (garage, front yard) where personal actives usually take place and the owner reasonably has taken steps to limit public access and view are protected as connection to the main residence.

4) No standing when the housing is not in a legal form (tent in violation of city ordinance, no paid rent or false payment in motel) or when management ha done some kind of effort to terminate an inmate.

5) No standing when the guest is inside the home with purposes other than staying (business transactions, temporary visit).


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