U.S. Constitution: Fourth Amendment
The law regarding search and seizure by government officials or agents is both complicated and extensive. Prior to the American Revolution, the British authorities were permitted to enter the homes of colonists to search for and seize evidence of crimes with little or no justification. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was drafted to protect the personal privacy of citizens and provides for the right to be free from unreasonable government intrusion into their persons, homes, businesses, and property.
This amendment has also impacted the requirements and procedures required for a legal arrest, a police stop on the street, and the searches of both homes and businesses.
The Fourth Amendment: Search and Seizure Protections
In general, search and seizure rules determine whether evidence is admissible at trial. Evidence collected in a manner that violates the Fourth Amendment is barred from use at trial as the colorfully named 'fruit of the poisonous tree' doctrine. Law enforcement isn't entirely handicapped by the Fourth Amendment, however, and the police can still search or seize where they have a valid search warrant, a valid arrest warrant, or probable cause that a person has committed a crime.
The rules of evidence are notoriously complicated. The Fourth Amendment's text and supplemental information are available for your review, but the highly technical nature of evidentiary issues means that the experience of a legal professional can be very helpful to determine how the Fourth Amendment's protections might help in your case.
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.
Fourth Amendment: Annotations
The text of constitutional amendments is usually quite thin, but the following annotations will help you better understand how the Fourth Amendment has been interpreted by the courts.
- Search and Seizure
- History and Scope of the Amendment
- Searches and Seizures Pursuant to Warrant
- Valid Searches and Seizures Without Warrants
- Electronic Surveillance and the Fourth Amendment
- Enforcing the Fourth Amendment: The Exclusionary Rule
Learn More About the Fourth Amendment by Talking to a Lawyer
The Fourth Amendment is packed with rights and protections and imposes restrictions on how the government can collect evidence against you. To learn more about your rights or get help fighting criminal charges, contact a skilled criminal defense attorney in your area today.