The 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution
Daryl A. Hammonds
American Military University
4th Amendment 2 The 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights that protects individuals against unreasonable search and seizures. The 4th Amendment is very important in law enforcement and often is the factor that may make or break a criminal case. Police officers should know case law associated with search and seizure so that they can conduct their investigations professionally in order to increase their chances of a conviction. Search and seizure is a very broad subject when it comes to law enforcement; it is also an important topic that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on in several incidents.
An important case to elaborate on is the Mapp v. Ohio case; this was a landmark case in criminal procedure. The U.S. Supreme court decided that the evidence obtained in violation of the 4th Amendment may not be used in state law criminal prosecutions in state courts. The circumstances of this case were that on May 23, 1957 police in Cleveland, Ohio obtained information that a suspect in a bombing case may be found in a particular home. Officers went to the home and asked permission to enter, but Mapp refused to let them without a search warrant. Hours later, several officers returned to the home holding a piece of paper. They broke into the door and Mapp asked to see the warrant. The warrant turned out to be false; Mapp was arrested for possession of pornographic material. The charges were later dismissed because officer’s had both entered the home and obtained the evidence of the crime illegally and in violation of the Fourth Amendment (Mapp, 1957).
This is a prime example of the “fruit of the poisonous tree” which is an extension of the exclusionary rule. The fruit of the poisonous tree prohibits any evidence obtained from a search or seizure that is in violation of the constitution to be inadmissible as evidence in court
4th Amendment 3 proceedings; meaning the “poisonous tree” being the illegal search, and the “fruit” being the obtained evidence that is tainted due to the illegal search.
It is typically in the police officer’s best interest to obtain a search warrant when searching a home, vehicle, outbuilding, etc. A search warrant is a legal document signed by a judge giving permission for law enforcement to search an area, whether it be a home, vehicle, computer, etc. The requirements for a police officer to obtain a search warrant are as follows; it must contain a detailed description of what is going to be searched, it must have a list of property to be seized, it must have a narrative establishing probable cause for the warrant, and it must be signed by a Magistrate or Circuit Court Judge. Once the search warrant is issued, police officers have up to 10 days to serve the warrant before it becomes invalid. After service of the warrant police are to provide the owner of the home or property that was searched with a copy containing the items that were seized as well as return the original warrant and property receipt to the courts. There is no real timeframe for police to return the warrant to the court, it just must be returned at a reasonable time that is determined by the court regarding the circumstance of the case and warrant.
There are however, exceptions to obtaining a search warrant that I would like to touch on. The first being exigent circumstances; this means that a police officer may search an area if they feel that there is no time to obtain a search warrant for fear of evidence being destroyed or for the safety of a person. Another exception is the “hot pursuit” clause, meaning that if a police officer is actively pursuing an individual who is fleeing an arrest the officer may give chase to the individual inside of a home without a search warrant. For example: if a police officer