Fourth 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.”

While wordy, the key to this amendment is right to privacy.

  1. “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated” – Congress can make no law or take any action that would violate your sense of privacy or security; also applies to:
    • Persons – Your body, anything attached to it and within it.
    • Houses – The homes that you own or pay a mortgage on.
    • Papers – This refers to anything on paper of a legally binding nature.
    • Effects – Anything within the confines of your house.
    • Also note that this refers to “unreasonable searches and seizures”.
  2. “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” – No law enforcement can search or seize anything without a search warrant or probable cause.  The key part of this “describing the place to be searched and the persons/things to be seized”.  The warrant must make clear what they are searching, why they are searching, and what they intend to do with what they find.

Other notes:

  • Since 9/11, the PATRIOT Act successfully watered down the strength of the 4th Amendment by making warrant-less searches and seizures that are related to terrorism or terrorist activities fully legal.
  • Law enforcement is also required to show you the warrant and allow you to read it.  Many detectives would rather you voluntarily release what they’re looking for, to avoid having to contact a judge.  Generally, if you’re innocent of what you’re being questioned about, you’d just show them/release to them what they’re looking for – no harm/no foul.
  • The ‘persons’  part of the amendment is what allows people to collect collect public benefits without having to take a drug test.  Your bodily fluids and your blood are considered part of your person.  In case you’re wondering why people are required to drug-test before accepting a job; as part of the application for employment, many companies stipulate on the job ad that you will be subject to a drug screening – you are not required to seek employment with that company if you find the action of a drug-screen to be offensive.  Ways to combat that?
    • Form your own business.  You would be the creator of your own policies.
    • Find an employer that does not drug-test, or try for a job in government.
    • Not that I advocate drug use, but stop using the drugs long enough to pass a drug test.
  • In case anyone wonders why during meth or marijuana busts, the police just “seize” the narcotics at random: Both narcotics are illegal to possess in the first place.
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