Home Amendments An Overview of the 4th Amendment

An Overview of the 4th Amendment

An Overview of the 4th Amendment

Fourth Amendment: Searches and Seizures

What is the Fourth Amendment?

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.

The Fourth Amendment Defined:

Like the majority of fields within American law, the Fourth Amendment is heavily rooted in the English legal doctrine. In a general sense, the Fourth Amendment was created to limit the power of the government and their ability to enforce legal actions on individuals. The Fourth Amendment was adopted as a direct response to the abuse of the writ of assistance, which was a type of general search warrant used by the government during the American Revolution. The Amendment was created to limit the powers of the law enforcement agency who is conducting a search of an individual’s personal property.

The Fourth Amendment is a part of the Bill of Rights, which are the first 10 Amendments to the United States Constitution and the framework to elucidate upon the freedoms of the individual. The Bill of Rights was proposed and sent to the states by the first session of the First Congress. They were later ratified on December 15, 1791.

The first 10 Amendments to the United States Constitution were introduced by James Madison as a series of legislative articles and came into effect as Constitutional Amendments following the process of ratification by three-fourths of the States on December 15, 1791.

Stipulations of the 4th Amendment

The Fourth Amendment guards against the government’s ability to conduct unreasonable search and seizures when the individual party being searched has a “reasonable exception of privacy.”

The Fourth Amendment specifically requires a law enforcement agency to possess judicially sanctioned search and arrest warrants, which are supported by probable clause, to be administered before a person’s property can be inspected.

The Fourth Amendment ties in numerous limitations whereby an individual may be searched without a warrant given the presence of certain circumstances. The individual’s property may be searched and seized if: The individual is on parole or in a tax hearing, faces deportation, the evidence is seized from a common carrier, the evidence is collected by U.S. customs agents, the evidence is seized by probation officers, the evidence is seized outside of the United States, or probable cause is evident.

Court Cases tied into the 4th Amendment

In Mapp v. Ohio, the Supreme Court ruled that the Fourth Amendment is enforceable and should be applied to all states in the Union by way of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Additionally, the Supreme Court ruled that certain searches and seizures were in direct violation of the Fourth Amendment even when a warrant was properly issued to the coordinating law enforcement agencies.

State Timeline for Ratification of the Bill of Rights

New Jersey: November 20, 1789; rejected article II

Maryland: December 19, 1789; approved all

North Carolina: December 22, 1789; approved all

South Carolina: January 19, 1790; approved all

New Hampshire: January 25, 1790; rejected article II

Delaware: January 28, 1790; rejected article I

New York: February 27, 1790; rejected article II

Pennsylvania: March 10, 1790; rejected article II

Rhode Island: June 7, 1790; rejected article II

Vermont: November 3, 1791; approved all

Virginia: December 15, 1791; approved all