Search and Seizure Rules

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The Fourth Amendment protects the right of the people to guard their property against trespass or encroachment. This has been the primary concern of the founding fathers when they introduced the amendment to the constitution. They cited the laws of England which decreed that even the slightest invasion of private property constituted trespass.

As Lord Camden declared in Entick v. Carrington, “No man can set foot upon my ground without my licence but he is liable to an action though the damage be nothing…. ”. The Fourth Amendment applies in cases involving search and seizure where the evidence obtained are meant to be used in court. Specifically, it protects a person’s privacy right in places where that person has reasons to expect some privacy from intrusion by government agents such as his or her private home.

For this reason, under the provisions of the Fourth Amendment, police officers are required to obtain a warrant from the court in order to conduct search and seizure proceedings. The court, on the other hand, should only issue the warrant after having been convinced that there is indeed a reasonable cause that a search is warranted for the purpose of solving a crime. Moreover, the application for a search warrant should specifically describe the particular objects that would be seized.

This element of “particularity” was meant to limit the search to areas where said objects could possibly be found. A search and seizure proceeding conducted without the benefit of a warrant results to the inadmissibility of evidence and often allows guilty individuals to escape conviction. Certain exceptions, however, have been set by the court that would enable police officers to conduct warrantless searches and seizure proceedings.

One instance involves the “protective sweep” of premises including the private residence of an arrestee if there is “reasonable belief” that a dangerous individual could be hiding in said premises. Another is a random search of vehicles when police officers could establish “probable cause” to suspect that a criminal activity is in progress. In cases of vehicles which are stopped for valid reasons, contraband in “plain view” of police officers are also subject to warrantless seizure.

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