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Text of the Fourth Amendment

Although ratification of the Fourth Amendment answered any lingering doubts about the validity of the writs of assistance in the United States, the 4th Amendment text raised questions of its own about the meaning of the terms "unreasonable," "search or seizure," "warrant," "particularity," "oath or affirmation," and "probable cause," not to mention other questions about the scope of such terms as "houses, papers, and effects."

Uncertainty over the Text

The U.S. Supreme Court, lower federal courts, and state courts have spent more than 200 years grappling with the questions raised by the 4th Amendment text and continue to do so as new cases come before them. Over the years, the courts have taken several significant steps in elucidating the rights protected by the amendment. For example, the Supreme Court has ruled that individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their bodies, clothing, and personal belongings. Similarly, homeowners have a privacy interest that extends from their homes to the surrounding areas. However, deciding where to draw the line, regarding privacy, and how to apply the rights to criminal procedure still remain contentious topics of debate. Take a look at the text below to get an idea of the intricacies and ambiguities presented by the Fourth Amendment.

The 4th Amendment Text

The Fourth Amendment reads as follows: "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."

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