The Fourth Amendment: It’s There for Your Protection

The Fourth Amendment: It’s There for Your Protection

( – The Fourth Amendment arose out of various encounters with search and seizure that went beyond what was necessary. Several cases stood out in the courts making it necessary to specify not just what law enforcement officers could search, but also what they could legally seize as it pertained to the warrant.

The Fourth Amendment states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Six Months After Death

One of the biggest issues that existed previous to the Fourth Amendment was the length of time a warrant lasted. Under British Law, warrants lasted from the date of the warrant until six months after the sovereign died. Effectively, this meant one warrant issued to a person might have lasted their lifetime, being used against them over and over.

Specific Attention

An impartial judge or magistrate issues warrants under the Fourth Amendment guidelines for specific locations, people, and items that apply to the probable cause for the search. Before this amendment, officers could search everything on the premises, whether it applied to the issue at hand or not. Often, searchers took items that had nothing to do with the search but had everything to do with the accused’s personal life or business.

People in a location being searched may be detained there, but not necessarily searched, unless there is just cause. If specific items are the object of the search, then the search is limited to areas reasonable for that item. For example, if the search is for a car, there is no need to look in the house.

Supreme Court

The Fourth Amendment may be one of the most challenged because it directly affects what evidence might legally be presented in a criminal case. In some cases, misuse of search and seizure might even lead to charges unrelated to the cause for the warrant. It’s the Supreme Court’s job to interpret the Fourth Amendment so that the rights of Americans are protected — while still serving justice.

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