Tuesday, April 3, 2012

4th Amendment: How Long Until We Are No Longer Protected

      The infamous 4th Amendment: 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 4th Amendment was created in part to have a constitutional cushion between U.S. citizens and the power of law enforcement.   There are two main parts to this amendment, the first is the interest of privacy.  This is recognized by Americans to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects.  The second, is interest of prohibiting searches and seizures that are unreasonable, or are not authorized by a warrant based upon probable cause. 
      We as criminal justice majors know the important cases regarding the Fourth Amendment.  Examples: plain view doctrine,  Terry stops, Berger case, Katz case, exclusionary rule, Atwater case, Kyllo case, and the board of education with drug testing.  These are just some of the important 4th Amendment cases, with plenty still left unnamed. 
       In our time, here and now, we as a society need to decide how we are going to act with new 4th Amendment ''policies''.  Throughout the U.S. history there have been plenty of unconstitutional arrests, anything from arrest and search without a warrant, search and seizure without a warrant, to border searches.  We as Americans have given our government the power to enable TSA, have unlawful searches, and invasion of privacy. 
      Law Enforcement always, and will always try to push the envelope when it comes to individual rights, because they are concerned about crime control.  One example is the Olmstead case, L.E. officers participated in eavesdropping on telephone calls.  This got shot down in the Supreme Court.  Then they tried to wire-tap which was again found unconstitutional.  Their last effort came when trying to 'bug' ( a listening device).  At first the Court found that it did not violate the Fourth Amendment, but then realized that conversations cannot be seized, unlike tangible items. 
      We now face the issue of warrantless ''National Security'' electronic surveillance.  After Katz, Justice White sought to preserve a future case where national security was in danger and through the authorization of the President or Attorney General that such surveillance could be permissible without prior judicial approval.  So now with the threat of national security, the government can 'bug' and wiretap, unconstitutional, but technically constitutional. 
      Our government continues to try and get away with unconstitutional endeavors; wiretapping, warrantless GPS on vehicles, search of cellphones, TSA, warrantless search and seizure.  These laws are consistently changing and we need to understand them, and if opposed, fight for your rights. 





  1. I do agree with most of what you have said but not all of it. We are indeed losing 4th Amendment rights on an almost daily basis. The advances in technology pose huge issues that the courts will soon be deciding. The problem is as soon as they decide one issue a new technology will come into play and the cycle will start all over again. The law enforcement officers on the street are definitely going to use anything they can to gain an edge on criminals, and this will definitely include pushing the boundaries of what they can get away with. It will then be the job of the courts to rein them in and decide what is ok and what is unconstitutional. The one issue I have with your article is the part about TSA. While yes the TSA searches are becoming increasingly invasive they are not unconstitutional searches. When an individual purchases their ticket they are agreeing to subject themselves to these searches. You have to read the fine print to what you are agreeing to. I for one would have no problem even if you didn't agree to them when purchasing your ticket. If I have to go through an intensive search before boarding a plane so be it, at least I know some psycho isn't going to have a bomb strapped to his chest and blow up the plane.

  2. Yes in the fine, fine print TSA searches are technically constitutional, but i just have a problem with it. You are an American citizen, on American land, why are you being searched without probable cause? You bring up the purchase of the ticket, thats like saying im going to Walmart to buy groceries but i have to be searched before entering the building. Hopefully not, but maybe that will happen in the future. Our society lets too much go and is too connected with the government. I think most people are okay with TSA, and metal detectors in schools and so forth because they believe crime is going up in the U.S., but it has actually declined, and has been declining for 20 years.