Evolution of the 4th Amendment Term Paper

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invasion of privacy under the fourth amendment. It briefly looks into the changes that have come about in this law and also the way that it is enforced.

The invasion of privacy is something that is taken very seriously in the United States of America and it is for this reason that the fourth amendment encompasses all areas in this respect, and safeguards the rights of all individuals. Although it is not very clear if this law is uniform or not because there appear to be cases where there has been exceptions to what the 4th amendment really says. For the past thirty years or more, innocent people traveling in different states have been pestered through no fault of their own. The police however believe that it is through this means of spot-checking that they have been largely successful at recovering weapons and drugs being transported around the country. But the question remains how many of the correct or wrong people are searched. A lot of people over the last few years especially have complained and raised their concerns to the denial of rights that desperately needed to be looked into.

Indeed no search of property can be carried unless there is a valid reason to do so, and certainly cannot be done if the authorities do not possess a search warrant for the same. If the latter does occur then action may be taken against the authorities, and the evidence that may have been recovered in the process is struck from the record. Although there have been cases where even though the police have recovered evidence from certain individuals with being issued a warrant, some courts have accepted the evidence found in these circumstances. In cases where the judge has refused to accept the evidence found under such circumstances, he has strangely resigned from office and the case has been allowed to proceed with the same evidence, unrestricted. This is just one of the changes that the 4th amendment had undergone, but there are few more other cases that have led to the law being improved with the passage of time. In the year 1967 the Supreme Court even prohibited the use of electronic listening devices, as these were also a means invading an individual's privacy. For the same, a search warrant became mandatory (Erowid, 2002).


There are few cases before us that if we look at we will see to what extent the 4th amendment has been effective, and to what extent it has been overlooked and ignored.

Schmerber v. California:

In the Schmerber v. California case we have seen that there has to be clear evidence and sufficient reason to believe that the person in question is really involved in any underhanded act. If so, there has to be proper, legal documentation that allows the concerned authorities to take blood samples or fingerprints of suspects.

The court has to be completely convinced that the person whom the police are going to arrest is really a criminal. This is because if they make a mistake, they can be penalized and the officers in charge can face charges. Along with this it is a very big disgrace for the police department. It would mean that they are not really doing their job correctly. This is a reflection of the Holt v. U.S., where the court asked Holt to try on some clothing that was found at the scene of the crime. This also seems to be the kind of procedure that O.J. Simpson went through, which means that how much is the court really just in allowing the individuals to practice their rights (Landmark Legal Opinions, 2002).

Illinois v. Rodriguez:

In the Illinois v. Rodriguez case we have seen that there was solid proof against Rodriguez. The court could have very easily put him away for possession of narcotics. The possession of narcotics is something that is considered more serious than being caught consuming it. What the police had to do was prove that he was dealing in a large amount of the stuff. The police found this in his possession when they invaded his private apartment. The reason for invasion was that his girlfriend said that he beat her up, but the charges that they brought against him were because of the narcotics he possessed. They went around the whole matter in the wrong way.

They could have very easily pursued the case as one of battery, and later pressed more charges against him for the possession of the drug after they arrested him for beating up his girlfriend. The case then was dismissed as the evidence that the police found was done so without a search warrant. This is an example of the amendment being practiced in its essence. However, we do not see the same practiced everywhere, and this is the reason why the amendment needed desperate adjustment and uniformity all over the country (Supreme Court Cases and Decisions, 2002)

Minnesota vs. Dickerson:

In 1993, the Minnesota vs. Dickerson case raised questions about equal practice of the 4th amendment. In the state of Ohio, it is legal for a person to be stopped and searched if the authorities feel that there is a need to do so. Dickerson was stopped and asked to get down from his car. It is here that we can raise our first few questions. What if he was in a hurry and had some urgent work? What if it was a question of a lot of money that he had to get his hands on in any situation? Would the police compensate him for his loss?

Dickerson was asked to submit to a pat down search.

During the search the officer found a lump in his jacket pocket that he suspected was crack. And then the evidence was presented in court and the individual was found guilty. In the Minnesota Court of Appeals, they said that the act of using the evidence found during the search was illegal, while they consider that the stop and search was legal. This of course does not make any difference because once this piece of evidence has come into the court, it can even be struck from the record but the evidence will always be in the minds of the jury at least. And even if it is not mentioned on paper it will in one way or another affect the decisions that are taken against an individual on which the evidence was found.

It has also been known that it is more likely for a black or any other non-white to be stopped and searched. Yet if a black has white seated at the back of him he will never be stopped. So, this kind of law encourages discrimination. If pat down searches are to be conducted they should be conducted everywhere in the country or not at all. It is not fair that these searches are only legal in those states where there is a greater strength of non-whites (Erowid, 2002).

Knowles vs. Iowa:

Knowles was stopped one day when he was speeding. The officers on duty used the opportunity search the driver and the vehicle as well.

This was an unwarranted search. They however found a pot pipe in his car that lead to a court case where he was found guilty. Knowles tried to suppress the evidence but was denied this because the court said that the officers had a right to stop and search the driver and the car because they suspected that he was speeding for a reason that may have been because of escaping the law or under the influence (Knowles vs. Iowa, 2002).

Indianapolis vs. Edmond:

In the Indianapolis vs. Edmond case that took place in 2000, the court decided that it was illegal for the police to set up roadblocks and conduct unexpected searches. This is considered a small war that has been won for the people who believe that their rights under the 4th amendment were being snatched away from them.

This is one of the latest changes that we have seen in the last thirty years. The police were exploiting the situation where there were a lot of drugs being transported around the city. But then again it does not mean that every one is carrying drugs, and why should innocent people of the public be victimized unnecessarily? Before the Indianapolis court made this law, people on holiday were unnecessarily harassed for the sake of a few that do transport drugs around. Thanks to this law now the people are happy that they are allowed move around freely knowing that the police cannot harass them unnecessarily any longer. We have seen here that there has been earnest action taken in favor of the people and this has marked a change. But it is still not the same everywhere. There are other states where there is still a deprivation of rights, and the following is a very recent example of the same…[continue]

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