The evolution of the Fourth Amendment

The evolution of the Fourth Amendment

| Jun 30, 2020 | Firm News

The Fourth Amendment protects Arizona residents from unreasonable government searches and seizures, and it states that search warrants must be based on probable cause and supported by an affirmation or oath. The right of people to be secure in their person, residence, effects and papers is rooted in English common law, which is the system from which most American jurisprudence evolved. However, many common law rights were widely violated by the British during the Revolutionary War, which is why figures including Thomas Jefferson and James Madison insisted that the United States have a written constitution to enshrine and protect them.

The Fourth Amendment also states that search warrants must be specific and detail the person or place to be searched and the type of evidence police expect to find. This protection was strengthened in 1914 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that any evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment could not be used in court. This is known as the exclusionary rule, but the Supreme Court ruling in Weeks v. United States only applied to federal criminal cases.

The exclusionary rule was expanded to state criminal cases in 1961 when the Supreme Court ruled in Mapp v. Ohio. The case involved a woman who was charged with possessing pornography after police conducted a warrantless search based on an anonymous tip. The justices were able to expand the scope of the Fourth Amendment by incorporating its provisions into the Fourteenth Amendment, which applies to all states and the District of Columbia.

Judges sometimes rule that police searches violate the Fourth Amendment even if the officers involved obtained a warrant. Experienced criminal defense attorneys may argue that evidence recovered during a search should be excluded if the police officers involved misled the issuing judge or searched areas or gathered evidence not mentioned in the warrant.