Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution is one of the regulations that significantly affect both law enforcement and intelligence gathering in the country (Tomkovicz 44). This regulation states that “each man’s home is his castle, secure from unreasonable searches and seizures of property by the government,” (Vile 78). James Madison introduced it to Congress in 1789 due to the unrest and mass rejection of the new constitution by the public (Vile 79). After a series of amendments made by Congress, the bill was finally passed in 1791.
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It was finally adopted on March 1, 1792, and became effective immediately (Wright 25). This is one of the most important laws that have remained effective in the United States since it was enacted. Human Rights Activists and lawyers have often used this piece of legislation to champion for the rights of the people of the United States. As Vile notes, this law has been adopted, in part or as a whole, in many countries around the world (56). Emerging democracies are also embracing the laws as they come to appreciate the fact that real power lies with the people. The United Nations, in its Bill of Rights, also supports this regulation as a way of checking the government excesses on its people.
Right It Is Designed To Protect
According to Tomkovicz, the Fourth Amendment “prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause” (65). This regulation was in direct response to the public outcry that the state was unfairly using its power to infringe on people’s right to their privacy. At the time of its drafting, the United States still relied on English Common Laws which at that time were very oppressive because it was meant to empower the colonial rulers. The public felt that they deserved to feel the freedom given that the United States had become an independent state. The arbitrary police search that was common at that time made them feel that they were still under some oppressive rules where their privacy was not respected. The pressure was piling on the government and the Congress as the public demanded their freedom from arbitrary search.
The amendment was specifically meant to protect people’s right to privacy. The drafter of this bill appreciated the fact that sometimes it may be necessary for the law enforcement officers to make searches on homes and other private properties to help maintain law and order. However, there had to be a clear pattern that is clearly stated in the law defining how the search was to be done. The security agencies had to follow the due process and inform those who are affected that there is a just cause, as approved by a judge, that warrants the search. As Vile and Hudson observed, this law has become one of the fundamental principles of the Bill of Rights not only in the United States but also in many other countries around the world (27).
How It Hinders Operational Capabilities
Fourth Amendment is a very important law that people of the United States are keen to protect at all costs because it protects their privacy. However, it is important to note that it has significant impacts both on law enforcement and intelligence gathering. Studies have indicated that this regulation has made it possible for a criminal to get away with heinous crimes because sometimes it incapacitates law enforcement and intelligence gathering. In this paper, the researcher primarily focuses on how this law hinders law enforcement in the country. The following are how this law negatively impacts on law enforcement.
The law enforcers often have to present evidence in court whenever they present a suspect in court for crimes such as drug trafficking, dealing in contraband goods, rape, and other related offenses. To do this, they have to search for homes or other private properties of a suspect. However, Tomkovicz says that sometimes these criminals get away with their crimes simply because of the law that requires the law enforcers to get warrants before searching (98). Time is always a very important factor when trying to arrest some of these offenders. These offenders would do everything to destroy the evidence given a few minutes or hours, making it difficult for the enforcers to make a strong case in the courts. A good example is the problem of drug trafficking in this country.
According to a report by Vile, the United States of America is one of the largest markets for drug traffickers of South America and Asia (53). Law enforcers have been doing their best to identify and bring to book these criminals, especially those who are operating in the country. However, the work of the officers can only be effective if they can conduct searches on the premises of these criminals as soon as they have the lead. In most of the cases, the officers are forced to get warrants before searching. Time is of great importance in such operations. This is so because such criminals also have informers within the police force who can alert them whenever there is an impending police raid. As such, it can be more effective to arrest these criminals as soon there is a just cause to make the officers search.
According to Oesterdiekhoff, Ivory Harris, known in the criminal cycles as B-Stupid, is a perfect example of how the work of law enforcers can be negatively affected due to the Fourth Amendment (311). The law enforcers were informed of his criminal activities and were keen to trap him. In 2004, the police made a successful arrest, but the important exhibit had been destroyed as the officers sought a warrant to search. As the officers were getting the warrant to search the premises, his accomplices were successful in destroying the drugs.
The officers were too late and the evidence needed in court was already destroyed. The officers presented the criminal to the court, but they had nothing to prove that he was a peddler, and given that he was a minor, the charges against him were dropped. Soon after, he killed 24-year old McGhee Alphonse (Sandy and Lee 471). He continued with his criminal activities of selling drugs and committing murder within the country. Each time the officers arrested him, he would be released either for lack of evidence or lack of a witness to confirm the claims of the prosecution. It was not until 2007 that the officers were successful in presenting strong evidence against him that he pleaded guilty. By this time, he had killed some people and sold drugs to many Americans contrary to the law. His case is a good example of how this regulation sometimes makes the work of the law enforcers very complex
According to Wright, the Fourth Amendment “proscribes unreasonable seizure of any person, person’s home or personal property without a warrant,” (98). This is one of the biggest impediments to law enforcement in this country. In many instances, suspects often get the opportunity to escape as the officers struggle to get a warrant of arrest. People, by nature, can move from one place to another. It is also natural for people to try to escape after committing a crime and they are aware that police officers are on their trail. In the United States, some criminals only need to cross from one state to another to escape justice. Their escape is often made easy given the fact that officers have to get a warrant of arrest before bringing them to book.
On September 12, 2013, Jacob Bennett fatally shot Jacobsen Rikki, Davis Dominic, John Lajeunesse, and Presley Steven (Wright 48). The police sought a warrant of his arrest, but the criminal took advantage of the time factor to escape from Florida (Wright 102). He is yet to be arrested given that he is now residing in a different state. The family members of the victims are yet to get justice because the regulation made it possible for a criminal to escape. According to Vile, trade-in contraband goods are still a major problem in this country because of this law (85). Although there are exemptions to this law at the border, once these goods enter the country it becomes very difficult for officers to get a warrant in time to make a successful arrest once they get a tip-off.
In a different case that is closely related to the regulation, a certain Mr. Citrus Heights who was a felony suspect, tried to escape from the authorities who had surveillance on him (Oesterdiekhoff 302). He knew that he was under the close watch of the authorities and therefore, made an attempt to escape from law enforcers. The police officers were able to monitor his movements the moment he left the house. Given that he was already under close surveillance of the police and the court had already issued a warrant of arrest, it was easy for the officers to arrest him. He was taken to court to face justice. As Tomkovicz notes, the problem that the law enforcers face is that not all the times do they have a warrant of arrest for some of their suspects (12). This successful arrest of Mr. Heights would not have been possible if a warrant of arrest had not been issued. It is a clear demonstration of how sometimes law enforcement can be hampered with by this regulation.
According to Wright, this law is very important in terms of protecting the right to privacy (53). The majority of the population are law-abiding citizens who deserve to be protected and respected by law enforcement agencies and at no time should they be subjected to unjustified search and seizure. This law was meant to ensure that this happens. However, some criminals are taking advantage of this regulation to escape from the law.
Oesterdiekhoff, Georg. “Child and Ancient Man: How to Define Their Commonalities and Differences.” The American Journal of Psychology. 129.3 (2016): 295-312. Web.
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Sandy, Polishuk and Bette Lee. “An Activist with a Camera.” Oregon Historical Quarterly, 117.3 (2016): 468-85. Print.
Tomkovicz, James. Constitutional Exclusion: The Rules, Rights, and Remedies That Strike the Balance between Freedom and Order. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.
Vile, John. A Companion to the United States Constitution and Its Amendments. Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2010. Print.
Vile, John and David Hudson. Encyclopedia of the Fourth Amendment. Thousand Oaks: CQ Press, 2013. Print.
Wright, Crystal. Con Job: How Democrats Gave Us Crime, Sanctuary Cities, Abortion Profiteering, and Racial Division. New York: Cengage, 2016. Print.