Informational Website

4th Amendment

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.  The text of the Fourth Amendment provides 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.”

By way of the Fourteenth Amendment due process clause, the Fourth Amendment applies to the fifty states.   Its protection ensures that people’s privacy interest—especially in their own homes—is not violated.

What is meant by “unreasonable searches and seizures”?  The Fourth Amendment specifically protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.  In other words, the Fourth Amendment protects against the exploratory searching of a person as well as the person’s house, papers and effects.  A valid search warrant must provide a description of the place to be searched and the person or things to be seized.    

What constitutes probable cause to support a search warrant?  In order for a search warrant to be issued, it must be supported by probable cause.  Probable cause is a legal term that is defined on a case-by-case basis.  Essentially, a valid warrant must contain a sworn statement that alleges reasonable grounds to believe that a crime has occurred on the premises to be searched.  

What is the consequence for a Fourth Amendment violation?  Before 1914, if police obtained evidence in violation of the Fourth Amendment, they could still use the evidence at trial.  However, in a case called Weeks v. United States, the United State Supreme Court created the exclusionary rule.  Pursuant to the exclusionary rule, any evidence obtained in violation of a suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights (or in violation of any of a suspect’s Constitutional rights) is excluded from use at trial.  In 1961, in a case known as Mapp v. Ohio, the United States Supreme Court made clear that the exclusionary rule applies to the fifty states.

If you believe that your Fourth Amendment rights have been violated, you need to hire an experienced criminal attorney.  If the police have seized evidence against you, an experienced attorney will be able to challenge the use of the evidence against you in court.