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The Fourth Amendment

What It Is

The 4th Amendment to the Constitution is about freedom from random arrests that do not make sense. Nobody can go into your home without a search warrant. The text is: “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 person or things be seized.” The right to privacy without government intrusion is what this amendment is about. A person’s home is their castle. Some circumstances, however, if there is criminal activity, demand that the search is conducted.

A warrantless search, however, is not always illegal. Searches can be done when a government employee violates somebody’s privacy for example, and strip searches are not against the law along with body cavity and anal or genital inspections. The 4th Amendment prevents dog-sniffing searches along with electronic surveillance. The 4th Amendment requires there be a cause to arrest somebody although an arrest warrant is not necessarily a direct and obvious requirement to search somebody. Traffic stops have to be temporary for limited purposes.

Warrants are not always demanded if the situation involves probable cause. The 4th Amendment is designed to prevent warrantless searches but it applies to the search and seizure of electronic devices. The Patriot Act is seen as a consequence of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. The 4th Amendment was originally designed as a response to the British government’s habit of warrantless search and seizure during colonial times. It was ratified on December 15, 1791 by three-fourths of the states. The British wanted to tax people without representation as well.

The Revolutionary War had been a direct result of the British wanting to invade on the rights of the average colonial citizen. In modern times, however, the Supreme Court held that Chandler Vs. Miller (1997), a search can be conducted only if there is suspicion of wrongdoing on the part of the person being searched. The 4th amendment does not apply to wiretaps. The 4th Amendment provides U.S. citizens with protection from intrusive government behavior. An individual cannot be detained by force. Courts grant permission to detain somebody given that the court issues a warrant, also called a writ. Probable cause is about whether or not the arrested individual has committed a crime or not committed a crime.

The police are allowed to frisk people for weapons though when obtaining a warrant is not the most practical scenario to be in. Individuals in cars have less privacy than an individual in a house. Exceptions to unlawful searching can include the ability to search a public school without a warrant. In the Weeks vs. the United States case from 1914, states that illegally obtained evidence could not be admitted in court. Since 2008, there has been a major issue with government surveillance as to how it is legal or illegal under the 4th amendment right to protect oneself from unlawful search and seizures.

Police officers can search your car without a warrant and in recent years they have as well, collected bulk data on your telephone calls as well as Internet activities. If there is an illegal search, that data cannot be submitted in court, even if there is evidence of guilt. The 4th Amendment used to entail the right to privacy. Edward Snowden revealed the discretions of the NSA. When you get off a plane, you have to have your bag searched by TSA. According to the Mother Jones article I just found, the Department of Justice can subpoena Facebook into giving them all their data. Much of life is now conducted online because of banking and travel, the Internet is essential to this process. If records about Facebook use can be collected without a warrant, that fact applies to all Internet activities that must be conducted with great care.

Works Cited

https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/amendments/amendment-iv

https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/fourth_amendment

https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/06/how-fourth-amendment-not-protect/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution

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