Search and Seizure

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The constitution has been the back bone of the United States legal system since it was first written and signed by our founding fathers. This document has been the topic of many heat debates and has gone through many changes and interpretations throughout the years. The forth amendment of the constitution is one of the most debated amendments. This is the amendment that covers the area of search and seizure as well as privacy. 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." With this being written many people have had to interpret this on different levels since it was first written, especially police officers. In its most basic explanation the forth amendment limits the power of the police to make arrests, search people and their property, and seize objects and contraband.

The fourth amendment's intended duty is to protect against unreasonable searches and seizures. This amendment demands that searches made by the government be reasonable. It also states that warrants must be supported by probable cause and specifically state who is being arrested or exactly what is being searched for and eventually seized. Yet this does not mean that a search can not be performed without a warrant. If a police officer believes a crime has been or is being committed with probable cause a warrantless search may be conducted. Another important part to the fourth amendment is the exclusionary rule. This rule makes it clear that any evidence seized during an illegal search or violation of the fourth amendment not admissible during a criminal trial. The main goal of this rule was to deter police officers from violating suspects' constitutional rights.

The forth amendment grew from the experience of the colonials dealing with the King of England. It was created to protect against the multiple invasions of privacy by the British government against the American colonists. A British law called "writs of assistance" which allowed royal police to search homes of citizens in order to find violations of British customs laws. This was the thought behind the fourth amendment by the founding fathers. Yet in England it was said that every man's house was his castle, this was not applied to the colonies. The first case in English law to question the right of police of the King's men to enter a home without reason was Semanyne's case. This case recognized that people had the right to defend unlawful entry into their homes. On the other side this case also stated that with notice to arrest or an order to carry out the King's wishes it was okay for the authorities to enter ones home. Searching home had become something that could not be decided with an easy yes or no answer it seemed that each case was different and the law must be applied in that way. John Wilkes was one the men that really brought the issue of search and seizure to the headlines back in colonial times. A warrant was issues to search his home in order to find papers of criminal nature, but his home was ransacked and destroyed. The court found that the warrant in this case was bad since there was no probable cause. Before this entire situation police had a free reign to do whatever they pleased. Many people did not question a police officer or government authority in any matter. The forth amendment after written made it very clear that a warrant was needed by authorities to perform a search or a seizure of anything, unless in a designated circumstance. This seemed like the best way to limit the powers of the police. In recent times the protections under the fourth amendment have not been held to such a high standard as they were back in colonial times. Since the level of...
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