Fourth Amendment it Is a Traditional Belief Essay

Download this Essay in word format (.doc)

Note: Sample below may appear distorted but all corresponding word document files contain proper formatting

Excerpt from Essay:

Fourth Amendment

It is a traditional belief in America that a man's home is his castle, meaning that he is lord and master of his home and no one may enter, not even the government, without his permission. This was such an important issue among the American colonists that it was included into the Constitution when they broke away from Great Britain. In short, the fourth amendment states that no private property could be searched or seized without a proper warrant; and a warrant could not be issued without due cause. Over time belief in this absolute principle has gradually softened and a number of exceptions to this rule have come into place. Police and other authorities have been given exceptions to this rule in certain circumstances and it is not uncommon for evidence, that was gathered without a warrant, to be accepted in a trial. This is the situation in the scenario where Mary Ellis finds a man stabbed with a knife on the floor of her walk-in closet. She is the one who called 911 and requested help from EMS personnel, who are always accompanied by the police. And when the police later find bloody fingerprint in the room of Mary's adult son William, and he is arrested for the crime, there are a number of questions about the behavior of the police in respect to the Fourth Amendment rights of both Mary and William.

The aversion to unreasonable searches and seizures of property has it roots in colonial America where colonists were often subject to searches and seizures by British authorities through what was known as "writs of assistance." These were "general warrants authorizing the bearer to enter any house or other place to search for seize 'prohibited and unaccustomed' goods." ("Fourth Amendment," p. 1282) As these writs were valid for the entire life of the king who issued them, these writs could be in effect for years, or even decades. American colonists were constantly plagued by British authorities using these writs to perform searches and seizures of property.

When America gained independence, the Founding Father's incorporated into the Constitution protection for the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. Reasonable searches, which by definition are infringements of privacy, are permitted only when they take place by a governmental employee or by an agent of the government. Seizures, which "refer to the interference with an individual's possessory interests in property, can included the person or their physical property. ("The Fourth Amendment") The courts have determined in past cases that any evidence gathered by the government but which is found to have been gathered in a manner in violation of the Fourth Amendment is ordinarily excluded from trial in what is known as the "Exclusionary Rule." ("Mapp v. Ohio")

Because of the individual citizen's right to privacy inherent within the Constitution, law enforcement officers routinely obtain search warrants to avoid the problem of illegal searches and seizures. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution requires that no warrants be issued without probable cause, but what exactly constitutes probable cause has never been specifically defined in either the constitution or in federal statutes. The most basic definition that has been used for issuing search warrants in the past is "if the apparent facts set out in the affidavit are such that a reasonably discreet and prudent man would be led to believe that there was a commission of the offense charged." ("The Fourth Amendment," p.1301)

Despite the fundamental principle that private property cannot be searched or seized without a proper warrant, the courts have been forced to recognize that there are times when a search or seizure is appropriate without a warrant. Although these are the exceptions to the rule, they do exist and play a role in the legal system. Firstly there is the "plain view" doctrine which states that police may take possession of property not included in a warrant if it is in the plain view of the officer. The police also have the right to search and seize objects on a person if that person has been placed under arrest. They do not need to obtain a warrant for such a search. There is also an exception to the necessity of obtaining a warrant when exigent circumstances are involved. This means that an officer has a compelling reason to take action but lacks sufficient time to obtain a warrant. Probable cause in this circumstance is usually defined as the officer's belief, taken in the totality of the circumstances, that the search would turn up evidence. ("The Fourth Amendment: An Overview")

If the police are called to a residence or building to assist in an emergency, and they have no warrant, they can still enter the place without violating the fourth amendment. The existence of an emergency situation precludes the need for a warrant under the idea that there is someone who is in need of immediate help. There is also another exception to the need for a warrant, and that is when a person voluntarily allows a search of their premises. However, in cases where one person allows a search and another resident refuses, the refusal overrides the permission and the search is not allowed. However, if there is no refusal, then evidence gained against others in the residence is allowed. (Georgia v. Randolph)

In the scenario where Mary Ellis finds the body of her neighbor in her closet, her calling 911 precipitated an emergency situation where the police were legally entitled to enter her home. ("The Emergency Aid Exception") There was no need of a warrant to enter the premises because the owner of the home called 911 and asked for aid from EMS personnel and police. At the point where the police found the body and determined that it was dead, the home became a homicide scene. Because the police had already been invited into the home, when they found the body of the neighbor there was no need for a search warrant for the rest of the home. The case of Mincey v. Arizona set the precedent that a "warrantless search of a homicide scene is permissible under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments." (Mincey v. Arizona) In this case, after a narcotics raid in which an officer and several suspects were killed, more police then investigated the premises as a murder scene and discovered narcotics. The suspect claimed that the police did not have a right to search the premises because there was no search warrant, but the violence that happened during the initial raid turned the premises into a homicide scene and therefore, after the determination was made that it was indeed a homicide crime scene, the police did not need further warrants to investigate. Anything discovered during the investigation of the homicide was admissible in court, even if it demonstrated another crime was committed.

The one issue in the scenario presented is the fact that the police found a bloody fingerprint in the bedroom of Mary Ellis' son William. Mary Ellis must be considered to be the owner of the home, but her son seems to live there without paying rent. Therefore he is not considered to be a tenant and Mary Ellis is not his landlord. Had this been the case, his room would have been off-limits to the police without his permission. But since Mary Ellis was the owner, and William was not the owner or tenant, she had the legal right to permit the police to search Williams bedroom long as William did not object. And while there is no direct permission given by Mary Ellis, the scenario did not specify that she told the police to search the entire house, her calling 911 implicitly gave the police to…[continue]

Cite This Essay:

"Fourth Amendment It Is A Traditional Belief" (2012, December 01) Retrieved October 21, 2016, from

"Fourth Amendment It Is A Traditional Belief" 01 December 2012. Web.21 October. 2016. <>

"Fourth Amendment It Is A Traditional Belief", 01 December 2012, Accessed.21 October. 2016,

Other Documents Pertaining To This Topic

  • Social Media as a Potential Tool in Conflict Resolution a Facebook...

    Social Media as a Potential Tool in Conflict Resolution: A Facebook Perspective Humans are social animals, and will usually dwell together in communities, based on their beliefs, resources, preferences, needs, risks, and a number of other conditions which may be present and common, affecting the identity of the participants and their degree of cohesiveness. Community In sociology the word community is often used to refer to a group that is organized around common

  • Statement of Individual Rights for a Nation

    Individual Rights for a Nation Introductory Supporting Analysis The legal and political philosophical principles that ostensibly will advance the Nation of Tagg and its political establishment are the focus of the first section of this paper. The Nation of Tagg utilizes a democratic republic form of managing the body politic via the use of popular determinism. The question as to whether Natural Law or Legal Positivism as a philosophical approach to

  • Non Traditional Security Threats and the EU

    Non-Traditional Security Threats and the EU Theoretical Study Terrorism Weapons of Mass Destruction and Nuclear Threat Regional Conflict Organized Crime Environmental Degradation Non-Traditional Security Threats and the EU Due to the discontentment with the conventional concepts of security, the research schedule based on these conventional concepts, associated theoretical debates and their impact on policy, have given rise to the idea of non-traditional security. In the present era, it is universally acknowledged that security possesses multifaceted characteristics. Growing from

  • Application of a Pedagogic Model to the Teaching of Technology to...

    Pedagogic Model to the Teaching of Technology to Special Education Students Almost thirty years ago, the American federal government passed an act mandating the availability of a free and appropriate public education for all handicapped children. In 1990, this act was updated and reformed as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which itself was reformed in 1997. At each step, the goal was to make education more equitable and more

  • Retirement Portability Is a Hot

    As Geisel (2004) notes: Income-tax deductions are worth the most to high-bracket taxpayers, who need little incentive to save, whereas the lowest-paid third of workers, whose tax burden consists primarily of the Social Security payroll tax (and who have no income-tax liability), receive no subsidy at all. Federal tax subsidies for retirement saving exceed $120 billion a year, but two thirds of that money benefits the most affluent 20% of

  • Search and Seizure Law Known

    Further, these writs, once issued, could be reused, and did not expire until the death of the reigning monarch (Knappman, 33). In Massachusetts, a group of colonial merchants, represented by James Otis, petitioned the Superior Court to refuse any new applications of writ following the death of George II. Otis, using the phrase "A man's house is his castle," argued in the case that the writs were a direct violation

  • Privacy for High School Students

    Internet: Privacy for High School Students An Analysis of Privacy Issues and High School Students in the United States Today In the Age of Information, the issue of invasion of privacy continues to dominate the headlines. More and more people, it seems, are becoming victims of identity theft, one of the major forms of privacy invasion, and personal information on just about everyone in the world is available at the click of

Read Full Essay
Copyright 2016 . All Rights Reserved