The Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment




The Fourth Amendment


The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution is a legal provision, which prohibits the unreasonable seizure and searches without warrants. The law requires the enforcement officers to have warrants, which have judicial sanctions that are supported by probable cause. Probable cause can be defined as the standard, which the authorities have cause or reason to get a warrant for the arrest or search of a suspected violator. The Fourth Amendment was introduced as part of the Bill of Rights (Clancy, 2008). It was also a response to the rampant abuse of the writ of assistance by the authorities. A writ of assistance is a document issued by the court, to provide the authorities to perform the searches and seizures on citizens in a given jurisdiction. However, there are cases where the amendment seeks to exclude any evidence gathered in violation of the amendment. This is referred to as the exclusionary rule, which renders such evidence inadmissible in a court of law. However, this rule has been widely criticized as one, which protects criminals who have violated the law. This paper will explore the fourth amendment in depth, and establish various opinions regarding the same.

Question 1

As earlier mentioned, this amendment seeks to protect Americans from the infringement of their privacy by the authorities. The law affirms people their rights to be safe and secure in their houses and other properties, from unreasonable seizures and searches (Stephens & Glenn, 2006). This amendment was introduced to control the writs of assistance widely abused by the authorities and other enforcement officers. These writs were initially issued as an act of the English Parliament and were implemented by the Court of the Exchequer. It was mostly applicable to the collection of customs and inspection of goods to cap smuggling of goods. These writs were in use in the United States, which at the time was referred to as British America. For many years, the enforcement officers had been violating this privilege, hence the amendment.

This amendment is important in the American justice system for various reasons. Firstly, it protects the citizens from the infringement of their privacy. Before a police officer conducts a search, he must obtain a warrant, and he must have probable cause. This regulation protects the citizens from unlawful accusations or implications that come with unprecedented and unwarranted searches and seizures.

Moreover, the law protects people’s property from being seized without probable cause. For example, if an individual leaves his car outside his house, which is suspected to have been in a crime scene, it might be confiscated by the police officers, without them having proper justifications for the seizure. Sometimes the police act on tips from the local people, and may misjudge a situation. Confiscating someone’s property inconveniences him or her, and thus the law becomes instrumental in preventing such scenarios. Additionally, the amendment prevents citizens from being wrongfully charged or convicted by the presentation of evidence collected from their premises in court. The law categorically states that for a search to be conducted, the authorities must have a warrant. Any searches and seizures conducted without obtaining a warrant are illegal, and any evidence provided in court is inadmissible. This provision is called the exceptional rule, which mainly protects innocent citizens from incrimination in a court of law.

Question 2

The fourth amendment applies to government authorities, the federal and the state courts, and the citizens of the United States. The amendment is put into use during searches and seizures by law enforcement. The provision is that the police officers must obtain a search warrant when accessing private property. The amendment also contains the exclusionary rule in the event where the evidence collected in an illegal search exercise is used in court. In such a case, the amendment provides that the evidence is considered inadmissible in a court of law due to the infringement of the privacy rights of the defendant.

Question 3

The amendment was initially applied in the federal courts but is now in use by the state courts. Its application in the state courts was extended after the Wolf v Colorado case of 1949. The law provides the citizens with the right to the Due Process and equal protection. However, despite the scrutiny of seizures and searches, not all raise concerns over the fourth amendment laws. The law only refers to government exercises and officials. It does not cover searches done by private bodies or people. For instance, if an individual has a suspicious spouse or private investigators trailing him, he cannot report to the authorities and claim a violation of his fourth amendment rights. Defendants must also establish a reasonable expectation of privacy in the premises supposed to be searched (McInnis, 2009). However, the law maintains that no one who exposes his property to the public, whether in his private residence or office, is protected by the amendment. The only instance when the individual is subject to protection is when he or she requests to preserve the property as private. Therefore, in such a case, he or she must demand a warrant for the search from the authorities. Homeowners are also protected by the law both inside and outside their houses. However, the protection only extends to the cartilage outside their homes, not in the open areas far from the house. The amendment also protects the individual by extending the expectation of privacy to their clothing, bodies, and personal effects.

I agree with this scope of privacy since it largely protects the individual from unnecessary loss of property, court cases, and a waste of time. The expectation of privacy is the most useful element of the amendment especially because it provides the citizen with a platform to guard themselves against abuse of law and authority by government officials. However, I believe that the law should expand its protection to a wider radius of the homeowner’s vicinity. This extension is because more often than not, a homeowner may still have property beyond the cartilage outside their houses that directly affects them. Therefore, they may still have the rights to be protected by the law, which is often denied due to the provisions stipulated in the amendment.


The Fourth Amendment was introduced by President James Madison in 1789, which was a response to the abuse of the writs of assistance issued by the British American court previously. It protects the citizens from illegal searches and seizures by the law enforcement and requires police officers to have search warrants before engaging in such an exercise. It is part of the Bill of Rights, which largely protects the people’s privacy rights. The scope of the privacy is limited especially where an individual has not declared an expectation of privacy to their property.



Clancy, T. (2008). The Fourth Amendment. Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press.

McInnis, T. (2009). The evolution of the Fourth Amendment. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Stephens, O., & Glenn, R. (2006). Unreasonable searches and seizures. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-Clio.

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