United States Constitution

PREAMBLE : We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution



The Fourth Amendment

Text of Constitution:
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 'Travis Translation' of Constitution:
The personal property of people is safe from government intrusion. People, and their houses, papers and other things they own, are protected from the police taking their property or looking at their property without a warrant. If there is a need to search or take property, a Judge must issue a warrant for a very good reason, supported by an oath, and the warrant must describe what is being looked at and what is being taken.
Unreasonable Searches and Seizures Important Cases
The 4th Amendment, fundamentally, is concerned with privacy. A person’s space – either in terms of possessions or body – cannot be intruded upon without justification. As stated in the amendment, a search or seizure must not be ‘unreasonable.’For example, in Weeks v. United States (1914) the Supreme Court unanimously asserted that a person’s possessions could not be seized from a private residence unless the police had a warrant. A warrant is a document issued by a court after evidence is put forward that shows that there is ‘probable cause’ to perform the search. The ‘probable cause’ standard is considered to be something more than a ‘reasonable suspicion.’ But, obviously, even probable cause is still not enough to confirm guilt. It is often vague and unclear as to when probable cause exists. As such, the law surrounding the 4th Amendment has continued to shift over the decades, as definitions have changed and exceptions have been carved out.Indeed, even the definition of a “search” has seen modifications over the years. In Olmstead v. United States (1928), for example, the Supreme Court rejected the notion that electronic surveillance – by wiretapping phones – constituted a search. But in Katz v. United States (1967), the Court reversed this precedent. Recalling the purpose of the 4th Amendment – to assure citizens of their expected privacy – wiretapping was brought under the umbrella of a search. A warrant is now required for these actions as well (though, today, the federal government does engage in warrant-less wiretaps within the United States for the purpose of combating terrorism – though the Supreme Court has yet to weight in on the constitutionality of these potential ‘searches’).4th Amendment analysis often is involved in issues of police brutality and excessive force as well. An arrest of a person can be considered a seizure or intrusion upon that person’s body. The Court dealt with exactly this kind of analysis in the 1989 case Graham v. Connor. Police officers detained and arrested a man they saw running out of a convenience store while they questioned the store clerks to make sure nothing had been stolen. The man claimed he was diabetic and having an insulin reaction, and that he was hurrying to return to a friend’s house to get the necessary means to stop his reaction. The police ignored his repeated requests regarding his condition, and he suffered injuries as a result while waiting to determine nothing illegal had happened in the store. The man brought a lawsuit alleging that this violated his 4th and 14th amendment rights. The lower courts applied a test that analyzed the intent of the police officers, and dismissed the plaintiff’s claims when they decided that the police did not have a “sadistic” or “malicious” intent in keeping him detained.The Supreme Court disagreed and vacated the lower courts decisions. In cases involving excessive force violations of the 4th amendment, the Court determined that a “reasonableness” standard should be used rather than subjective intent test. This standard is easier for plaintiffs to prove. Additionally, this test must be applied through the 4th Amendment itself, rather than the Due Process Clause or other amendments. However, the Court also made sure to mention that this analysis must take into account the fact that police officers are frequently required to make fast decisions regarding their safety, and therefore this reasonableness must be viewed from the perspective of a “reasonable officer” at the scene.The modernization of 4th Amendment protections has continued in the 2014 decision Riley v. California. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that police need a warrant in order to search the contents of a cellphone. The government argued that cell phones could be searched upon the arrest of an individual, comparing this to the legally acceptable search of a prisoner’s pockets. The Court acknowledged that given the immense amount of data stored about a person on a cell phone, searching a phone was instead far more similar to (and perhaps even worse than) searching a person’s house.Still, not all searches require warrants or even probable cause. First, police officers routinely pull individuals over without warrants. Often, the facts surrounding the pull-over or the arrest constitute probable cause. If a police officer actually sees a person using drugs, for example, there is obviously ‘probable cause’ for an arrest – and the officer need not wait for a warrant to do his or her job. However, there are instances when police may perform searches even without probable cause at all, and with the lesser (though still somewhat vague) standard of ‘reasonable suspicion.’ For example, in Terry v. Ohio (1968), the Supreme Court considered a search that police officers had conducted. The officers had patted down individuals walking on the street that they felt were exhibiting suspicious behavior. It turned out that the individuals were, in fact, carrying illegal weapons. But the defendants claimed that those weapons were found through an unconstitutional search: the officers did not have probable cause to think that the men were carrying weapons, and the defendants sought to suppress whatever the officers may have found through that search. The Court, however, rejected this argument and acknowledged that on-the-job police officers need to be permitted some amount of leeway in order to properly do their jobs. The facts of the case made the search sufficiently reasonable. As long as the search was not merely conducted on a ‘hunch,’ it did not violate the 4th Amendment.   As an aside, other exceptions to needing a warrant for a search have been established as well. For example, in New Jersey v. T.L.O. (1985), the Court upheld a search performed in a school by an administrator without a warrant. Students can be searched provided there is at least reasonable suspicion. Weeks v. United States (1914)
Olmstead v. United States (1928)
Mapp v. Ohio (1961)
Katz v. United States (1967)
Terry v. Ohio (1968)
New Jersey v. T.L.O. (1985)
Graham v. Connor (1989)
County of Riverside v. McLaughlin (1991)
U.S. v. Jones (2012)
Florida v. Harris (2013)
Missouri v. McNeely (2013)
Maryland v. King (2013)
Fernandez v. California (2013)
Riley v. California (2014)
Heien v. North Carolina (2014)
Florida v. Harris (2013)
Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC (2012)
Smith v. Maryland (1979)
Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections (1966)
Harman v. Forssenius (1965)
Breedlove v. Suttles (1937)
Fernandez v. California (2014)
Scott v. Harris (2007)
Brady v. Heien (2014)
Delaware v. Prouse (1979)
Heien v. North Carolina (2014)
King v. Burwell (2014)
Rodriguez v. United States (2015)