What would we do without the Fourth Amendment? (US
v Leon 1984)
The fourth amendment actually states that it is the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, and that they 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. This means that there has to be a legitimate reason that fulfills the warrant clause, based on probable cause.
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The government wanted this amendment because it brought justice to searching people, places, and belongings in the U.S. The fourth amendment orders that searches are only conducted under a warrant, with some exceptions to this requirement. For instance in crisis situations where the delay in getting a warrant would make the search useless, it is allowed. This is referred to as a time is of the essence clause. A valid arrest automatically permits the police to search the surroundings of the subject per se and the subject to disarm him/her and to prevent evidence from being destroyed or tainted. The same rule applies to cars and other vehicles because they may transport or contain contraband. (Contraband is goods prohibited by law from being imported or exported.) The purpose of this amendment is to discourage unlawful searches. This amendment does seem to have reduced the incidence of unlawful searches of innocent people.
The fourth amendment was written in October of 1774, when the Continental Congress protested with the king over the government officials having search power. After the Declaration of Independence was written, the individual state constitutions of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Massachusetts protected against random searches. A possible model for the fourth amendment was the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights; and it was the first to use the phrase unreasonable searches and seizures. This amendment possesses two clauses: the first clause, disallows unreasonable searches of persons and property; the second clause specifies the conditions that must be met in order to have a valid warrant issued.
The fourth amendment has some exceptions, in fact, there are over twenty that are known. Most are not specifically defined or written out, so there are a few loopholes in this amendment. There can be warrantless arrests, where someones clothing and handheld items may be fully searched. The police can even enter peoples houses and search them without having a warrant but only if they are in hot pursuit of the suspect. The same rule also applies for moving vehicles. All of these warrant exceptions can be justified because laws need to be enforced effectively and obtaining a warrant in these cases would be useless because that would give for evidence to be manipulated.
Actually in 1984, there was a case that had to do with a good faith exception to the amendment, the United States vs. Leon case. It involved an attempt to hold back evidence obtained through a search conducted under a warrant. Probable cause was not actually found in the application for the warrant. And the police officers were said to have acted in good faith, working under what they believed to be a legitimate warrant. The problem in the Leon case was deciding whether or not the exclusionary rule should be modified to allow the admittance of the evidence seized, on a defective search warrant. Justice White said, There is no provision in the Fourth Amendment expressly precluding the use of evidence in violation of its commands. Instead, the exclusionary rule operates as a judicially created remedy designed to protect Fourth Amendment rights generally rather than as a personal constitutional right of the person aggrieved. That means that the fourth amendment was able to be flexible enough to allow the search in 84 to take place. Reasonable dependence on a warrant cannot exist when it is not specific or when it is defective.
It is not easy to apply the rules governing normal search warrants to everyday life and crimes. Due to the complexity of criminal events and crime in general, any police officer can go to a judge and get a search warrant to investigate any crime and if they can convince the judge that there is probable cause. This helps the judiciary system control and support its local law enforcement officials in their accurate skill fact-finding with crime details. The fourth amendment also serves to protect innocent civilians from enduring unreasonable search and seizure.
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