The fourth amendment is a provision of the USA constitution that protects its citizens against unlawful searches in their areas of residence, bodies and motor vehicles. Even though the law enforcing officers have a strong lead that points at the suspect, without a search warrant the person has a right to resist the search. In addition, evidence confiscated in that type of search is not admissable in the court. As a result, there are many criminals who have been left free and this increases the crime level of the country as they invoke the fourth amendment when the evidence points against them. However, despite the provision, it should be noted that a historical reflection of some cases reveals several instances where the amendment has either been violated or not properly used in the provision of verdicts in court. This paper focuses on the 4th amendment with close reference to historical cases touching on school, homes, individuals and motor vehicles.
In 2006, in the Georgias vs. Randolph, the Supreme Court ruled for Randolph (Wineholt, 2006). This occured despite the fact that the search that was carried out by the police yielded evidence for criminality. According to the jury, Randolph, who is a resident in a house that was being searched, had objected the search even if the wife had consented to it (Wineholt, 2006). A close look at this case revealed that the Supreme Court set free a criminal simply because he had objected to the search. The fact that Randolph knew the provisions of the fourth amendment made him immune to the accusation and therefore despite him being a criminal, he was able to go free. This acts against the interest of the state especially in the current era of terrorism where criminals with the potential of causing a lot of damage are left free. And perhaps they are to be released even when the evidence points towards them since it was obtained in an illegal search.
Another situation is the 2006 case of Hudson vs. Michigan where Hudson was arrested for possessing drugs and guns. Although the police had a warrant, they did not knock and announce before the search was done (Blair, 2006). In this case, the trial court ruled out the evidence saying that it violated the provision of the 4th amendment. However, the Supreme Court reversed the ruling and charged him as guilty. In this case, the Supreme Court was justified to offer such a ruling since the police had a warrant to search the place. Even if they announced or not the evidence would be found anyway. As such the knock and announce provision ought not to be given much attention, especially where the person in question is armed. Knocking and announcing give a chance for the criminal for prepare an attack or to hide the evidence or escape altogether.
In the case of the USA vs. Grubbs, Grubbs was convicted. The warrant that was used for his search was anticipatory. Accordingly, he argued that the officers were to search his house only if he received a pornographic email (Wineholt, 2006). Despite his submissions, the court denied him the motion and convicted him. Basically, in this case, whether the warrant was anticipatory or not, the evidence for pornography was found. As such it will not be right for the law enforcers to free him because the warrant is anticipatory. In this case, the 4th amendment would not stand, and the court was justified for the ruling.
Another situation that puts the 4th amendment under question is the 2009 case of Arizona vs. Gant. In this situation, the court ruled for Gant (Armacost, 2009). He was found driving with a suspended license by the police. After being arrested and surrendering the car, the police searched his car only to find the gun and a plastic bag of cocaine. The Supreme Court ruled in his favor noting that the search warrant was not about the mistake found (Armacost, 2009). However, even if this was the case, it should be noted that the ruling conflicted with other USA rules of criminality. First, the evidence was found in the line of another criminal offense. The fact that he was driving with a suspended license would prompt the police to find out any other illegal or criminal things he had in his car. This depicts that the search as justified and if the Supreme Court had ruled in the favor of the state, they could have gotten rid of one more criminal.
The application of the 4th amendment in schools is also another aspect of focus. For instance in the 2009 case of Sanford unified school district vs. Redding. A student called Marissa was reported to have prescribed drugs for a male student. This prompted the search for Marissa day plan in which some drugs and weapons were found (Pierce, 2012). Upon being interrogated, Marisa said that they belonged to Redding. This prompted a search on Redding possession including her body. The court ruled for her noting that the strip search was illegal. A close examination of this case reveals that the ruling was justifiable because the evidence was not found with Redding but with Marisa thus it was Marisa who was supposed to be answerable. Moreover, the school did not have evidence beyond doubt that the drugs belonged to Redding and that Marisa was not accusing her false out of malice or fear of punishment.
Generally, in as much as the 4th amendment protect the USA citizens against search, some instance calls for its violation to address the case at hand in a more realistic manner. For instance, in this era of terrorism, a police officer with a search warrant should not start knocking and announcing to the terrorist before searching the place. This will endanger the life the police officer or give a criminal a chance to escape. Additionally, where the evidence of criminality has been found regardless of the presence of search warrant or not, one is supposed to be convicted. Furthermore, the person in question is not expected to allow voluntary the search in her or his house as in many cases they will want to seal themselves. It is important to note that the 4th amendment was made to protect the citizens human rights and protecting them from the brutality of the police. However, the current state of crime shows that by supporting the 4th amendment, the justice system puts more peoples right in jeopardy by allowing criminals to go free despite damning evidence that can be used to convict them. Thus the consent of the resident should not be given much attention if at all the criminal elements in the USA has to eliminated and make a clean and sane society.
In conclusion, the 4th amendment has been historical ignored in some instances and used in some instances to confine criminals in the USA. However, a close look at the historical cases reveals that there are high chances that criminals are likely to go free using the provisions of this amendment. As such it will be more reasonable if the 4th amendment is amended to fit the current society and the new direction that criminality has taken in the USA. This way, the law enforcement officers will be able to bring more criminals to justice thus making the country safer.
Armacost, B. E. (2009). Arizona v Gant: Does it Matter?. The Supreme Court Review, 2009(1), 275-317.
Blair, C. (2006). Hudson v. Michigan: The Supreme Court Knocks and Announces the Demise of the Exclusionary Rule. Tulsa L. Rev., 42, 751.
Epstein, L., & Walker, T. G. (1995). Constitutional Law for a Changing America: Rights. Liberties, and Justice, 680.
Pierce, Y. (2012). Put the town on notice: School district liability and lgbt bullying notification laws. U. Mich. JL Reform, 46, 303.
Wineholt, A. (2006). Georgia v. Randolph: Checking Potential Defendants' Fourth Amendment Rights at the Door. Md. L. Rev., 66, 475.
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