American Military University
Discussing the 4th Amendment
The 4th amendment is one of the first ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights. It’s also one of the most common amendments that are violated amongst the citizens in the United States by law enforcement. Not everyone has common knowledge of their 4th amendment. Citizens aren’t aware of what really a search is and what really is considered a seizure. This is something that needs to be known because they could become a victim of the violation of the 4th amendment.
Let’s look at the true writing of the 4th amendment and what it really says. According to (Constitution.finflaw.com) the 4th 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”. Now to some people, that probably looks like a bunch of words put together and their still wondering what some of it actually means.
Secure in your persons, houses, papers and effects means that no law enforcement or any government official can come into these places without a warrant. Your person, means your pockets in your clothing, your hat, your shoes and socks, a pocket book or wallet if your carrying one. Pretty much anything you’re carrying on your person cannot be searched unless you give consent or a warrant is issued. This even keeps your bodily fluids protected under this clause. Houses are pretty much the same as people. To search a residence an officer must have consent from the owner, a warrant or unless the officer has exigent circumstances to enter the residence. Your personal papers and effects such as cell phones, computers and GPS’s are items that would require a warrant and or consensual search from you.
A seizure is the act of a law enforcement officer takes the property of someone that has been used in connection with illegal activities such as evidence or seizing someone from leaving an area. If an officer puts someone in handcuffs and doesn’t have a reason to do so, he/she is seizing that person and they don’t feel free to leave. A reasonable person in handcuffs would believe that they’re in custody and are not free to leave. Illegal seized property or persons are a violation of the 4th amendment.
The next clause in the 4th amendment, warrants shall not be issued without probable cause. First, probable cause is considered to be an officer or a reasonable person believes that a crime has committed, being committed or is about to be committed (SearchandSeizure.org). With that in mind, an officer must establish probable cause to a judge or a local magistrate in order to arrest someone or to write a search warrant. There are different ways an officer can establish probable cause such as; observational evidence, circumstantial evidence, expertise and information. Observational evidence refers to what an officers sees, smells, hears. A good example of this would be an officer seeing someone looking into a residential window late at night and the person is holding some burglary tools. Circumstantial evidence is the gathering of facts, when looked together as a whole determines that a crime has occurred. An officer’s expertise can determine when gathering evidence for probable cause. An example of this would be a officer pulls someone over for driving while impaired; the officers determines the suspect is intoxicated by doing field sobriety test, he has used his expertise to gather the evidence that the suspect is intoxicated. Evidence obtained through information can also be used as probable cause. An example of this would be a narcotics agent has a confidential informant to buy drugs numerous times from a drug dealer. This information would be enough to gather probable