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Understanding The Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution grants American citizens the right to not be searched and/or detained without probable cause by a government or law enforcement agency. An experienced lawyer with extensive knowledge of Constitutional Law can review your case and may be able to help you if your Fourth Amendment rights have been violated.

What Protections Does the Fourth Amendment Provide?

The amendment primarily protects the privacy of individuals by ensuring neither they, nor their property are subjected to investigation or confiscation by any authority without such entity having probable cause to do so. The types of personal property protected include, but are not limited to:

  • Clothing.
  • Personal documents or papers.

Before a search and seizure undertaking can commence, a government or law enforcement agency must obtain a search warrant from a court of law. In addition, this warrant must include key information like:

  • The location of the specific search taking place.
  • The names of the specific individuals to be searched and/or arrested.
  • The specific items to be search and/or seized.

In addition, the investigating party must swear before the court that the information they provide the court is accurate.

The History of the Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment was included in the original Bill Of Rights and is one of the oldest freedoms Americans enjoy.

  • Its origins date back to Colonial times when forces loyal to the English king raided houses and gathered information of anyone suspected of speaking out against the British government and/or Monarchy.
  • The amendment was first proposed on September 25, 1789 and ratified on December 15, 1791.

What Other Entities Are Protected by the Fourth Amendment?

The Fourth Amendment also governs how search and seizures can be conducted in other establishments, such as schools and in vehicles.

  • While law enforcement agencies and school authorities would need to establish probable cause before conducting a search, they would not always, however, need to obtain a warrant.
  • A police officer would be within his or her right to stop a driver suspected of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol.

What Is Considered An Unreasonable Search?

In a number of instances, what could be interpreted as unreasonable or unlawful is complex and may need to be decided in a court of law. However, certain searches are considered to be unreasonable. These include, but are not limited to:

In a criminal manner, arrest and detention of an individual for more than 48 hours without probable cause.

  • The taking of an individual’s blood without his or her consent.
  • For law enforcement officials to fingerprint an individual without probable cause linking him or her to a particular crime.
  • Searches conducted inside a person’s body without probable cause linking him or her to a specific crime.

It is important to reiterate that specific aspects of search and seizure policies can be quite complicated and open to several differing opinions and interpretations, which could necessitate the involvement of a court. Is is recommended that anyone who believes their Fourth Amendment freedoms have been violated contact a law firm.


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