In the late 1700s the 4th Amendment was written because of strong objections to the Writs of Assistance or general warrants. The Writs Assistance gave officials the right to enter any home and seize belongings without a reasonable cause. (Grolier Encyclopedia) The 4th amendment was ratified in the Bill of Rights on December 15, 1771. This amendment protects the peoples right to privacy and security. (Encarta Online)
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. (Encarta Online) In the court case of Katz v. United States it was said that, the 4th Amendment protects the people and not certain areas against search and seizure. (Katz v. U.S.) Without this amendment people would have no claim over their personal privacy, or security. Any officer could enter homes and take any evidence that could be used to make an arrest or that could be used for prosecution in court.
In order for police or any other higher authority to search and seize evidence from a suspect legally, it is required that a judge must grant a search warrant. (Encarta Online) The warrant authorizes the officer to seize particularly described items and to bring them before the court that issued the warrant. In common law, search warrants were used mainly to discover stolen property. In
modern law, they have a variety of items, including intoxicating liquors, gambling implements, counterfeiters’ tools, burglars’ tools, smuggled goods, obscene literature, narcotics, illegal firearms and any article the possession of which is a crime or which may be used in evidence. (Encarta Online) The warrant must specify the place where the search is to be made and the property to be seized. An officer cannot get a warrant from a judge in any circumstance. (Grolier Encyclopedia) The officer may have to give a reasonable cause. As ruled in the case of Illinois v. Gates in 1983, to establish probable cause, one must show a probability of criminal activity; a prima facie hearing is not required. (Illinois v. Gates) The accused has the right to fight the grounds when the warrant was attained by means of a trial.
In most situations there are some exceptions. An officer is not allowed to get a search warrant if evidence to a crime is in plain view. (Encarta Online) In the case Horton v. California 1990, police entered a house with a warrant that was given to search the house for stolen jewelry. While searching the house they found illegal weapons in plain view. The officers seized weapons as well as the stolen jewelry. In 1990 the court ruled in the case, Greenwood v. California, the court approved a search of garbage that was left on the curb without a warrant. One other situation that an officer can enter a home and seize evidence is if there is and emergency and it is vital for he or she to enter. (History Channel Online) In the case Michigan v. Tyler, 1978, there was evidence that two furniture
dealers of committed a crime when the store was on fire.
While searching an automobile there is a different standard. For example, in the case Chimel v. California, the automobile was a movable scene of crime. Evidence could be gone by the time a warrant could be issued. In California v. Acevedo, 1991, the court set down a rule that covers all automobile searches. It was ruled that, when ever police lawfully stops a car, they do not need a warrant to search anything in that vehicle that they do not have a reason to believe holds evidence of a crime. (Grolier Encyclopedia)
As a result of Weeks v. United States, 1914, the court embraced the exclusionary rule. The exclusionary rule says that evidence gained as a result of an illegal act by police cannot be used against the person from who is seized. In the case Mapp v. Ohio 1961, police entered a Mapps home thinking that will find evidence of illegal gambling. While searching the house they found no evidence of gambling, but did find dirty magazines. Mapp was arrested and charged with having obscene materials. After being sentenced to jail the Supreme Court decided that the evidence was illegally obtained, because of the exclusionary rule. Within recent years the court has cut down on the exclusionary rule. (History Channel Online) Even though the rule says that illegally obtained evidence cannot be used in a trial, it can be used in a federal grand jury preceding. The court has given officers the benefit of the doubt to make honest mistakes. This ruling came as a result of the case Maryland v. Garrison 1987. In this case, police had a warrant to search an apartment for drugs. When the
officers went to the apartment complex to make a search they entered the wrong apartment but still found drugs.
In Olmstead v. United States, 1928 the court saw its first case dealing with electronic bugging. The court ruled that police did not need a warrant to tape his phone calls because it did not invade him physically. In 1967 the court ruled differently in the case Katz v. United States. In this case Katz placed a phone call from a public phone booth to send and receive betting information. To receive evidence of the crime, federal agents placed a bug outside of the booth. After being arrested the court ruled that even though it was in a public place, he was making a private call. It was an illegal search. Now because of this case police now have to have a search warrant before using wiretapping. This applies to any and all people. (Katz v. U.S.)
Along with the first eight amendments, the 4th Amendment deals with personal freedom. (Encarta Online) The 4th Amendment protects citizens from being accused of a crime without probable cause. Citizens of the United States of America deserves and maintains the right to privacy and security in their own homes.
Encarta Online. 2001. Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia. 29 September
Illinois vs. Gates. Ed. Ralph B. Strickland, Jr. Sept.1994. North Carolina Justice
Academy. 30 Sept. 2001. .
Groliers Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. 1996 ed. New York: New York City, 1996.
Katz vs. U.S. 1967. .
History Channel Online. 2000. Columbia University Press. 30 Sept 2001.