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US Government

Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment was part of the Bill of Rights that was added to the Constitution on December 15, 1791. It protects people from unlawful searches and seizures. This means that the police can't search you or your house without a warrant or probable cause.

From the Constitution

Here is the text of the Fourth Amendment from the Constitution:

"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."

Reasons for the Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment came about because of the actions of British tax collectors before the Revolutionary War. They would use general warrants to enter and search any house they wanted without needing evidence of wrongdoing. The Founding Fathers wanted to protect people from this sort of invasion of privacy from the government.

What is "searches and seizures"?

A "search" under the Fourth Amendment is when a public employee (like a police officer) looks at something that is considered "private". It typically takes two things in order for something to be considered "private":

1) the citizen thought it was private and it would not be able to be viewed by the public (For example, something inside a house would be private, something on the driveway could be viewed by anyone).

2) these expectations of privacy are realistic (It wouldn't be realistic to expect something on your driveway to be private).

When someone is "seized" they are not free to leave (like being arrested and placed in jail). When something is "seized" it cannot be taken back (like the police taking your wallet and not giving it back).

Judges Warrant

In order to conduct a legal "search" or "seizure" the police must have a warrant written by a judge. To get this warrant they must present evidence to the judge that some criminal activity has taken place. This assures that the police can't enter a person's home or arrest a person without evidence that has been reviewed by a judge.

Probable Cause

The Fourth Amendment also states that there must be "probable cause." This means that there is enough evidence to show that a crime has likely been committed. The police must have this evidence before any arrest or search. Any evidence found during the search does not count as probable cause.

How does this work in public schools?

The requirements for search and seizure are slightly different in the public schools. The Supreme Court has said that school officials and police officers can search a student if they have "reasonable suspicion" that a crime has occurred. This is less of a requirement than "probable cause."

Some Searches Are Allowed

There are certain places and situations where people are searched or stopped without a warrant. Consider the airport where everyone who flies is searched. When you agree to fly, you give up some of your Fourth Amendment rights. Another example is a roadblock that tests for drunk drivers. When you drive on public roads you give up some of your Fourth Amendment rights. These searches are generally accepted by the citizens for their own safety and protection.

Interesting Facts about the Fourth Amendment Activities To learn more about the United States government:

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Works Cited

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