Legal Dictionary

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Expectation of Privacy

An expectation of privacy is a legal concept that defines the scope of a person's constitutional right to be free from government intrusions in a particular place or regarding a particular thing. A person's expectation of privacy must be reasonable. For example, a woman has a reasonable expectation of privacy as to the contents of her purse in most circumstances. Consequently, the police cannot just randomly walk up to a woman on the street and demand that she allow a search of her purse. However, the police can search someone's garbage after it has been left out for pickup, since at that point, a homeowner could not reasonably expect that the contents of the garbage would remain private.