A Guide to the Fourth Amendment
The Fourth Amendment, or Amendment IV of the United States Constitution is the section of the Bill of Rights that protects people from being searched or having their things taken away from them without any good reason. If the government or any law enforcement official wants to do that, he or she must have a very good reason to do that and must get permission to perform the search from a judge. The fourth amendment was introduced into the Constitution of the United States as a part of the Bill of Rights on September 5, 1789 and was ratified or voted four by three fourths of the states on December 15, 1791.
The Text of the Fourth Amendment
The text of the Fourth Amendment which is found in the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights is the following:
“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.”
History of the Third Amendment
In Colonial America, laws were written in order to help the English earn money on customs. The justices of the peace would do this by writing general warrants, which allowed general search and seizure to happen. Massachusetts wrote a law in 1756 that banned these warrants, because tax collectors were abusing their powers by searching the colonists’ homes for illegal goods. These general warrants allowed any messenger or officer to search a suspected place without any evidence. It also allowed them to seize people without even saying what they did wrong or showing evidence of their wrongdoings. Virginia also banned the use of general warrants later due to other fears. These actions later led to the addition of the Fourth Amendment in the Bill of Rights.
The Fourth Amendment Today
Today, the Fourth Amendment means that in order for a police officer to search and arrest someone, he or she will need to get permission or a warrant to do so from a judge. In order to get a warrant, the police officer must have evidence or probable cause that supports it. The police officer, or whoever has the evidence, must swear that it is true to his or her knowledge.
Facts About the Fourth Amendment
• The Fourth Amendment applies to the government, but not any searches done by organizations or people who are not doing it for the government.
• Some searches can be done without a warrant without breaking the law, like when there is a good reason to think that a crime is happening.