4th Amendment – what does it mean?

The First 10 Amendments to the U.S. Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights.  There is often discussion and debate about what these amendments mean. Without bringing a political view and without giving legal advice, below is the text of the 4th Amendment and some commentary on it.

Amendment IV: 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.”

One of the most interesting aspects of this amendment, is that it relates mainly to criminal law cases. Criminal law cases are those which involve a person breaking a law and in most of the landmark cases related to this amendment how law enforcement is allowed to conduct investigations. Some examples are below.

Mapp v. Ohio happened in 1957 and the United States Supreme Court ruled that evidence gathered in violation of the 4th Amendment is not admissible as evidence.

California v. Carney happened in 1985 and the United State Supreme Court determined that mobile homes are different than a dwelling.

Oyez (an unofficial resource from Kent College of Law) has an extensive list of cases that United States Supreme Court Cases that address search and seizure.

This Amendment is a great example of how the U.S. Constitution is a living document, as cases are constantly coming to the judicial system that address new technology and what is a seizure or search of these technologies.


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