History of Fourth Amendment

Subject: Law
Pages: 11
Words: 2796
Reading time:
11 min
Study level: College


What makes the United States criminal justice system to be effective? The United States criminal justice system is termed as one of the most advanced criminal justice systems in the world because of the nature of criminal justice legislation. The Fourth Amendment is one of the legislations that seek to uphold order in the criminal justice system by ensuring the protection of the United States citizens during criminal investigation exercises.

Search and seizure procedures are a critical focus for the legislation. The legislation sought to protect the citizens from torture that is profound in the conducting of criminal investigations. The Fourth Amendment to the constitution of the United States forms part of the bill of rights that seeks to guard the citizens against searches and seizures that are unreasonable. The law also requires the judicial sanctioning of any warrant and the support of such judicial sanctions by a worthy cause. This piece of legislation can be traced from the times of the American Revolution in the 18th century. It was adopted as a way of countering the abuse that was directed at the ‘writ of assistance’ (Clancy 20).

This was a kind of a general search warrant that was used in the American Revolution. Since its development, there have been a lot of developments in the implementation of the amendment. Among the issues that revolve around the amendment is the definition of search and seizure amidst the changes in the mechanisms of search. This paper argues that the Fourth Amendment has been critical in containing the procedures of search and seizure in the criminal justice system of the United States.

This paper explores the history of the Fourth Amendment. The paper begins by bringing out the developments that led into the development of this legislation. This is followed by an exploration of the main elements of the legislation and the implications of the application of the legislation.

How the Fourth Amendment was developed

One main area of interest when talking about the Fourth Amendment concerns the factors that necessitated the passing and the inclusion of this piece of legislation in the constitution of the United States. The Fourth Amendment is strongly rooted in the English Law. In the Semayne’s case, in the year 1864, Sir Edward Coke reiterated the importance of respecting person privacy, and that individuals needed to be handled with decency when carrying out criminal investigations.

The case lauded the opinion that the King did not possess powers to intrude on the dwelling places of his subjects. However, the case acknowledges that government agents had permission to conduct searches and seizures in the dwellings of the subjects. The search and seizure by the government agents were checked by a given set of conditions to protect the subjects. The two conditions for search and seizure ware the observation of the law and the authorization of the search through a warrant (Acker and Brody 171).

The 18th century saw the growth in the embrace of the need for order and the protection of the citizens when implementing the search and seizure orders. In the case of Entick v. Carrington in the year 1765, Charles Pratt ruled that search and seizure were unlawful activities since the warrant that gave a go ahead for the seizure of all papers belonging to Entric and not just the paper implicating crime rendered the warrant unlawful. The warrant did not depict a probable cause. The case depicted the precedent that the utilization of common law is restricted when it comes to access to private property for search and seizure (Ferdico, Fradella and Totten 141).

Prior to gaining of independence, general warrants were used to authorize search and seizure. The general laws were highly based on the English system that was exercised in the country (McInnis 21). Having seen the dangers of using general warrants, the Virginia Declaration of Rights banned the use of such warrants. This took place in 1776 and formed the precedent for what is known as the Fourth Amendment. Article 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights of 1780 contained the requirement that all searches needed to be reasonable. This was incorporated in the constitution of Massachussetts and acted as a foundation on which the Fourth Amendment was enacted.

According to (Clancy 20), the Fourth Amendment holds that search and seizure warrants have to be accompanied by a judicial sanction. Such warrants must have a cause and ought to have specifications that limit the search. The other critical thing that has been observed, and which forms the basis of the Fourth Amendment is that search and seizures have to be reasonable. Since the Fourth Amendment serves when the one conducting the ‘search and seizure’ does it on orders from the state, it is not applicable for ‘seizure and search’ conducted by individuals.

This was in accordance with the US Bill of Rights, which only put a restriction of search and seizure to the federal government. However, this was furthered to other states, going with the ‘Mapp v. Ohio case in 1961’ in which the ‘US Supreme Court’ ruled that the law applied to the states through the “Due Process Clause of Amendment IV”. This was also backed by the fact that all the state constitutions in the country contained the analogous provision (Dempsey and Forst 386).

Search and Seizure

It is argued that the federal jurisdiction on criminal legislation was quite shallow, until the later years of the 19th century when several laws were enacted. These are the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Interstate Commerce Act. This broadened the scope of criminal jurisdiction, which expanded to cover drugs and narcotic cases. This brought about a lot of complexities in the definition of search and seizure as was in the Fourth Amendment. It is critical to explore the definition and scope of use of the terms search and seizure as implicated in the Fourth Amendment and the changes that have been witnessed in the criminal proceedings in the United States (“Jury Instructions in Criminal Antitrust Cases, 1976-1980: A Compilation of Instructions Given by United States District Courts” 311).

According to Worrall (3), the Fourth Amendment encompasses two main clauses. These are the clause that expounds on reasonableness and the warrant clause. The clause on reasonableness prescribes search and seizure and the manner in which reasonable search and seizure have to be conducted. The clause on warrants prescribes the manner in which warrants ought to be crafted to enhance a reasonable search and seizure.

According to the Fourth Amendment, search purposes an action of the government, which infringes on the reasonable expectations of privacy by a citizen. The Fourth Amendment protects the people, houses, effects, and papers from unreasonable search and seizure. Search means an activity that leads to the unearthing of evidence that is supposed to be used in criminal proceedings. The search has to be conducted by the government, and it has to respect the privacy of individuals (Worrall 5).

According to Worall (6), the term seizure, as used in the Fourth Amendment, has a dual meaning. The meaning can be attached to both people and property. The result that is sought for through search is seizure. This implies that people can be seized for being in possession of evidence being sought for in a criminal proceeding. However, the common understanding of seizure is that which applies to property.

A number of court cases have been used in turning on the meaning of search and seizure. Examples of these cases are the Soldal v. Cook County case and the California v. Hodari D case. In the Soldal v. Cook County case, this was a United States Supreme Court case of 1992. The Court held that a seizure of private property such as in cases of eviction even without search or arrest is an implication of the Fourth Amendment.

The court also ruled in favor of using the Fourth Amendment in ‘criminal and civil litigations’ to safeguard personal privacy (Dimitrakopoulos 373). In the California v. Hodari D case, the Supreme Court held that the defense of Hodari D relied on the proposition that seizure takes place when an officer restrains the liberty of a person through the use of physical force or an exercise of authority. According to the Court, the word seizure implies an application of physical force in the restraining of movement, even when the activity does not succeed. Seizure does not apply to an issue of an order for someone to stop evading arrest.

Therefore, according to this case, the use of authority in arresting a person is justified as long as that use of authority does not imply the use of physical force. There is also the issue of willingness on the part of the subject. The subject ought to show cooperation with the officers who are enforcing the seizure, failure to which authority can be applied in seizing a person (Del and Walker 53).

According to the United States v. Mendenhall case (1992), the court ruled against the complainant who had made complaints by claiming that there was an unconstitutional seizure by the government agents. The respondent willingly allowed the agents to search her personal property. The question of intrusion on the personal liberty of a person, therefore, comes out as one of the factors that are critical to the justification of legal search and seizure in the Fourth Amendment. Search and seizure also prohibit the interference or destruction of property. This comes out in the case of US v. Jacobsen in 1992 (Lippman 437).

Reasonable Expectations

Right to privacy and the definition of search according to the United States law is depicted in the Katz v. United States case, 1967. In this case, the right of privacy is elaborated. The court expanded its previous rulings to include immaterial intrusion through the use of technology and search and seizure. The case also extended the Amendment protection to diverse as where an individual reasonably expects privacy.

In the Burdeau v. McDowell case, 1921, reiterates the issue of private search and seizure. According to the Fourth Amendment, private search and seizure does not have legal attachment. The Fourth Amendment seeks to protect individuals from illegal acts and personal privacy infringement by the government. This is one of the weaknesses of the Fourth Amendment. It leaves the citizens exposed because of the intrusion on the privacy of individuals by private individuals or agencies. In the Burdeau v. Mcdowell case, the search was done by private individuals, who were acting on their behalf. This eliminates the legal stand in the case.

Both ‘tangible and non-tangible’ properties are encapsulated in the Fourth Amendment. This is an extension of the Fourth Amendment, which expounds on the scope of the definition and use of the term seizure in criminal proceedings. The issue of physical intrusion does not give a lot of attention because of the fact that the Amendment deals with the protection of the privacy of people and not locations (Uviller 56).

When all the issues observed above have been put into consideration in any proceeding, then the fulfillment of the term reasonable search is guaranteed. Any of the happenings in the criminal case, which violates the conditions outlined above, results in an unreasonable search. This is illegal, according to the Fourth Amendment. It is, therefore, critical to distinguish seizure from searches as is brought out in the Fourth Amendment.

Open Fields; Curtilage; House

One of the important elements in the Fourth Amendment is the definition of seizure and search in which the issue of physical location comes out. The Fourth Amendment does not protect the open field doctrine. Open fields do not get protection from the constitution since they cannot be constructed, thus they do not set an atmosphere of intimacy and privacy. For Curtilages, same houses are offered recognition in the constitution (Acker and Brody 64).

Public Access

The scope of public address is quite elusive as applied in the protection of privacy of individuals. This emanates from the fact that individual properties are protected in different ways. Examples of the forms of protection of private property include surveillance and the encoding of documents by individuals. Physical manipulation of the protected property denotes a violation of the Amendment (Stephens and Glenn 250).

There is also the resounding issue of using technology to search and seize people and property. This is evident in the Kyllo v. United States case. The question that is responded to in this concerns the level and limitations of using technology to carry to carry out the seizure and search of people and property. The use of technological elements in search and seizure must be defined and included in the warrant. This gives an assurance to citizens over their safety and the safety of property in cases where the search is conducted using technological gadgets (Dempsey and Forst 396).

Probable cause

According to this provision, warrants ought to be obtained in a constitutional way. This implies that they should be reasonable. The probable cause is the main pillar of the search and seizure process. Any warranty that does not fulfil the attributes of reasonability fails to meet the legal standards and is, thus, considered to be illegal according to the Fourth Amendment. Several cases have denoted the essence of meeting the minimum standards of public search and seizure by the government. Johnson v. United States case is one of the cases, which denotes the need for the possession of a legal warrant; meaning that a warrant has to be obtained in a fully legal process.

Probable cause entails all the procedures and justification mechanism that are used to implicate a given person to a given crime, thereby giving the government powers to get a warrant to search and seize the person or his property. Two critical things are important in the implication of a person to a crime and probable cause. These are: the credibility of the information that is offered about the person. This depends on the informants. The second thing is the reliability of such information, which is what guides the warrant issuers so that the aspect of reason is not ruled out. The probable cause is what qualifies search and seizure by denoting the presence of things that needs to be searched for in the premises of a person or the public (Samaha 255).

Obtaining and reforming warrants

Warrants can be obtained from specific judges after justifying a probable cause, denoting the presence of proof to conduct search and seizure. Warrants have to be obtained from the court, failure to which a number of issues may come out in the cases that are raised by the subjects of search and seizure. A complete warrant is attained when all the rules are adhered to by the government as it seeks to exercise the search and seizure of either individuals or property. This validates arrests and seizures and can be used as a source of legal proof in criminal case proceedings. However, the details of validity of arrest depicted by arrest warrants are highly dependent on the nature of the crime under investigation (Del 152).

Reasonable Suspicion and Justification

Justification is critical when a police engages in any act that implicates the Fourth Amendment. Therefore, the engagement of a police or an agent of the government in frisking or search has to have a legal backing under the Fourth Amendment, failure to which it is considered illegal. Therefore, even the act of stopping a person from committing a crime must be justified by the police. The police must have reasonable proof that a person is engaging in a crime before making attempts to stop the person from doing what he is doing. This is depicted in two cases: Terry v. Ohio and Royer v. Florida. This prevents the indecent acts of arrests and frisking of people and calls for order when conducting such activities (McInnis 145).

Voluntary/Third party consents involved in the 4th Amendment

The participation of a third party participation in the criminal proceeding requires from the person. This is evident in the Georgia v. Randolph case. In the case, the court held that it is illegal for the police to go on with a search, where one person does not give consent to the police even if the consent is given by another party.

Exclusionary rules, Good Faith Rules, Fruit of the poisonous tree, Independent Sources, discoveries

The right to withdraw from the criminal proceedings is dependent on the case. The act of good faith works here where the informants, as well as the subjects are given room to give evidence according to what they know and how they know it. This amounts to the legal obtaining of information, thus adding to the depth of the case in a criminal proceeding.

Works Cited

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