Where’s the Fourth?

Hey, can you help me?

I’m looking for the fourth amendment can you find it for me?

I know it says the following:

“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.”

but I still haven’t been able to find it?

Like anything dealing with law, whether Constitutional or Criminal, etc. you have to be familiar with the cases that have shaped its interpretation(s).

I recovered the case laws that directly influence the 4th amendment and so her it goes:

Do you have kids in public school? Did you know that according to New Jersey v. T. L. O. it gave the police permission to search a student’s body, belongings, and locker without a warrant?

Did you also know that police can legally search your house with a warrant that lacks merit? Yip. United States v. Leon gave them that ability.

Prior to 1980, it was legal for police to search a journalist’s home, business, or other property. Yes sir-y-bob Zurcher v. Stanford Daily gave them that permission, but was subsequently outlawed with the passage of Privacy Protection Act of 1980.

Also, the police have the legal ability to search your trash, even if it is sitting at the curb. Don’t believe me? Read California v. Greenwood to find out more.

Thought you could be in your backyard surrounded by a privacy fence and expect privacy? Nope, police can legally watch you from the sky. Florida v. Riley gave them that ability.

Did you know that your conversations with people are not considered private even when you expect them to be? In United States v. White, it was ruled that police can record your conversations via a body worn wire tap without a warrant, even when you expect there is a degree of privacy. Furthermore, it does not matter if your conversation was recorded in public or in privacy of your home.

And speaking of recording conversations without a warrant, did you know that according to Hepting v. AT&T that NSA, FBI, et al can record your conversation without a warrant? And the telecommunications company that aided in this also have immunity from legal recourse?

Did you know Illinois v. McArthur gave police the ability to prevent a homeowner or occupant from entering their home, if they believe there is potential evidence while the police obtain a warrant? Also, did you know that this same case gives police the ability to search your home just because a person SAID there was drugs in the house, even if there is not?

What about that book of yours that is sitting in plain view? Guess what? Police can take that book or other item without a warrant. They only need to have a “believable reason” to do so. Yip this was granted to them via Arizona v. Hicks.

And lastly, did you know that a cop can stop you on the street and search your body and possessions just because (s)he believes you are doing something wrong? Yeah, this was granted to cops in the famous Terry v. Ohio, which getting stopped by police under such conditions is known as Terry Stops or Terry Stopping.

I started to search for the fourth amendment in hopes that I could learn more about the legal implications from the recent developments with TSA at airports and with the recent headlines from the Los Angeles Times which on the front page it reported that the Supreme Court will determine if it is legal for cops to enter a house if “they smell pot.” Does anyone see that this is ripe for abuse? Just the other day I was finishing furniture with Teak Oil and Bees’ Wax, since I smelled like this, does this mean that a cop can enter my house and search the property just because (s)he smelled something and then claim in court that “it kind of smelled like pot?”

On a side note, I was quickly introduced to the fourth amendment when I was 22 and coming home from a late night rehearsal at about 12:45 AM. I walked from the train station in my home town carrying my saxophone, a backpack with about 20 pounds of books and another instrument case with effects pedals and a synth. In essence, I was carrying close to 55 pounds of gear. An officer pulled up along side of me and asked me what I was doing, where I was going to, and where was I coming from. He then wanted to see my ID, which under those circumstances I showed him my ID. I asked him why? Which he replied that there was a robbery in the area. I told him, “I would have to be the dumbest robber ever to be carrying 55 pounds of gear, walking on the sidewalk, on a full moon where EVERYONE can see me.”

He handed my ID back to me and I asked him for his name and badge number.

His reply, “No, I’m not telling you.”

And he drove off.

For the next three days, I searched the police blotter that is printed in the local paper, I couldn’t find anything relating to robberies in my area.

In the end, there has been some progress in protecting people from intrusions. For instance in Kyllo v. United States it states that police cannot view you from inside the your house with a thermal imaging device. But giving the authorities more intrusion ability far outweighs their restriction. Moreover, I doubt the people will protest any of the recent intrusions into people at the airport. Instead of people protesting the government on this, one will hear such cat calls as “Hey asshole thanks for holding the line up” at people who would rather be frisked than scanned. And I don’t hope that people will protest these intrusions. Remember “hope” is the first step towards failure.

Anyway, I’m looking for the fourth amendment, have you found it?


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