Understanding the 4th Amendment to the Constitution
This amendment to the Constitution is an important one and safeguards our right to privacy and protection from unlawful activities by law enforcement agencies. The main thrust is to ensure that we are not subject to unreasonable searches and seizures and that probable cause must be identified before any warrant is issued by a magistrate. The exact wording of this amendment is provided below:
“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. Applying to arrests and to searches of persons, homes, and other private places, this amendment requires a warrant, thereby placing a neutral magistrate between the police and the citizen.”
In these times we live in there are those who want to do us harm and will make every effort to accomplish their objectives. The need for law enforcement to have the access it needs to ensure the security of us as individuals and as a country cannot be disputed. It is not known how many planned terrorists activities have been thwarted and to a large extent I feel the patriot act passed by Congress played a role in this activity. Government entities at all levels must have the tools and resources to protect the security of us and our country. Granted there may be instances where individuals were overzealous in the actions they may have taken we should not condemn all individuals by assuming everybody is taking such action. Those who violate our right to privacy should be brought to justice according the applicable laws which were violated.
Many individuals and some organizations feel that the Patriot Act should never have been created with concerns cited with respect to the requirements of the 4th Amendment. The writing of the Constitution and in particular this amendment was created to address issues which were part of the environment in the early days of our country. The control of those in authority throughout the colonies left much to be desired and was in large part the reason this amendment was initiated.
Privacy is something we all have a right to expect as identified in this amendment and others in the Constitution. Privacy violations which have been in the news in recent weeks and months and though we do not know all the details of the activities being investigated the requirements of the 4th amendment should never be violated. While I understand that there are valid concerns about events associated with our right to privacy pointing the blame to entire government entities is not the answer. Granted there appear to have been violations but it does not mean that all individuals within the government are violating our right to privacy.
Another part of this amendment involves protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. The protection from this taking place involves the need for a magistrate to authorize a warrant before such searches or seizures can take place. The warrants issued must identify the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized. Having a magistrate involved creates a neutral party or it should be between the police or law agency and the citizen or citizens involved.
In summary this is one of the most important amendments to the Constitution not to lessen the importance of the other nine amendments which make up our bill of rights. The rights which are identified in the 4th amendment establish a principle by which all law enforcement agencies must comply. While there may be other laws associated with our right to privacy such as the Patriot Act the basic requirements must not be violated. Laws such as the Patriot Act have specific requirements to address some control over law enforcement agencies to ensure that there are specific reasons identified for a warrant to be issued. The requirements in the Patriot Act as I know them help to ensure the privacy requirements are not violated without just cause.