Gov: Third and Fourth Amendment Rights

The Third and Fourth Amendments were a response to the suppression of rights under British colonial rule. The Third and Fourth amendments are designed to protect the privacy and property rights of citizens from abuse by law enforcement authorities or the military.


The Third Amendment prohibits citizens from being forced to take soldiers into their homes. Under British rule, colonists had sometimes been required to quarter, or feed and house, British soldiers. Colonists saw this quartering law as another tool British authorities used to intimidate them. Although the Third Amendment has had little direct application since colonial times, it offers a general guarantee for the privacy and sanctity of people’s homes.


The idea that people have a right to a certain amount of privacy also influence the Fourth Amendment. This amendment forbids “unreasonable searches and seizures” of individuals or their property without a properly executed warrant or written approval from a judge. This means that law enforcement officials may not search a person’s home or property without prior consent or a legal order. A warrant must be based on probable cause or a reasonable suspicion of criminal behavior. It must also be very specific in describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized. However, in some cases, the police do not need a warrant for a legal search. For example, they may search a person or property if they see criminal evidence in plain view or have probable cause to believe that a suspect is trying to destroy such evidence. Also, the Court has held that searches of students and their possessions by school officials do not require warrants.

The Supreme Court has heard numerous cases involving search and seizure.

In Katz v. United States, the case hinged on recordings of a suspect’s conversation made from a public phone booth. Because the recording device was placed outside the booth and recorded only the suspect’s voice, the police believed they did not need a warrant. However, the court disagreed. It concluded that a warrant was required, because the suspect has a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in a phone booth.

In Terry v. Ohio, the Court’s decision gave law enforcement greater latitude to search individuals. The case involved three men whose behavior caused a police officer to suspect that they were about to rob a store. After questioning the men, the officer frisked them by patting them down the outside of their clothing. Two of the suspects had guns and were later convicted for carrying concealed weapons. The men appealed their conviction claiming that the officer did not have probable cause to frisk them. They argued that he had no evidence other than his “hunch” that they were about to commit a crime. The Court decided that the officer’s observations provided adequate cause for the search. It said that his actions and suspicions were reasonable given the behavior of the suspects. This “stop and frisk” rule has give the police more power to try to prevent serious crime before they happen.



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