What is the expectation of privacy in Florida?
The expectation of privacy in Florida is the idea that the 4th Amendment only protects searches where the person being searched has a reasonable expectation of privacy. In other words, the government can’t randomly search people, their homes, and other important areas where that person would expect the government not to intrude unless there was some evidence of wrongdoing prior to the search.
The government is only permitted to perform 4th Amendment searches (i.e. searches where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy) where there is probable cause prior to the search. If there is not a reasonable expectation of privacy then there is no 4th Amendment Search. In Sum, the 4th Amendment only protects against certain kinds of searches, those searches where a person would have the expectation of privacy. It does not protect against those searches where there is no expectation of privacy.
Example #1 (No expectation of Privacy): Person throws a bunch of drugs into their garbage and takes their garbage and puts it out onto the street. The cops come along and search the garbage and find the drugs. There is no expectation of privacy in the person’s trash therefore, that trash search would not be considered a 4th Amendment Search. This is because once a person puts their trash out, the expectation is that the trash will be looked at by garbage men, it’s out in the open for all to see, it’s likely sitting on government property, etc. Therefore probable cause is not necessary and the search can be executed without a warrant.
Example #2 (Where there is an expectation of Privacy): There would be a reasonable expectation of privacy in Florida inside of a person’s home. Therefore, where a person’s home is searched and illegal contraband was found inside the cops must have some exigent circumstance or a probable cause warrant to search the house.
See Rolling v. State, 695 So.2d 278 (Fla. 1997). In Rolling the Florida Supreme Court discussed exigency circumstances with the expectation of privacy in Florida for tents. It’s a good case to read because it shows the interplay between exigency circumstances clashing with a reasonable expectation of privacy. Click here to read.