Violations of the Constitution – The Fourth Amendment


Our Founders created the Constitution and Bill of Rights to guarantee the American people certain freedoms, liberties and rights. Over the years those rights have been trampled, manipulated and at times, grossly misinterpreted.

This series will focus on examples of just how many of our rights have virtually been lost.

The Fourth Amendment

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.”

The Fourth Amendment protection against “unreasonable searches and seizures” was adopted as a protection against the widespread invasions of privacy experienced by American colonists at the hands of the British Government. So-called “writs of assistance” gave royal officers broad discretion to conduct searches of the homes of private citizens, primarily as a way of discovering violations of strict British customs laws. This practice led to a unique awareness among our Founding Fathers of the threat to individual liberty and privacy that is created by unchecked government search powers.

The Fourth Amendment has been held to mean that a search or an arrest generally requires a judicially sanctioned warrant. In order for such a warrant to be considered reasonable, it must be supported by probable cause and be limited in scope according to specific information supplied by a person (usually a law enforcement officer) who has sworn by it and is therefore accountable to the issuing court. The amendment applies to governmental searches and seizures, but not those done by private citizens or organizations who are not acting on behalf of a government.

Gray Areas

There are three exceptions to the law where a person’s expectation of privacy is greatly reduced.

  1. Vehicles may not be randomly stopped and searched unless there is probable cause, but because they’re deemed areas that do not serve as residences or repositories of personal effects, items in plain view may be seized and areas that could potentially hide weapons may also be searched.
  2. United States borders. Random searches at our borders, including international airports, are allowed under US Customs laws.
  3. Public Schools. The Supreme Court ruled that searches in public schools do not require warrants, as long as the searching officers have reasonable grounds for believing that the search will result in the finding of evidence of illegal activity.

These are gray areas because we’ve seen abuse from both the law enforcement side and the citizen side. Officers continually concoct ‘reasonable cause’ for searching vehicles and conduct random inspections. They get away with it because so many people are unaware of their rights.

The Border Patrol conducts searches at checkpoints miles away from the actual border and it can include information on a traveler’s electronic materials, including personal files on a laptop computer.

School searches were approved in 1985, but it wasn’t until 2009 when they determined cavity searches were no longer permissible.

Are these violations of the Fourth Amendment?



For the sake of brevity, click below to read the story about a man who was arrested for taking videos of cops beating a guy.

The Boston Marathon Bombing

Without a doubt, the fourth amendment was repeatedly violated during the search for the second bomber. People willfully gave up their right to privacy, yet some were still treated as suspects. Judge Andrew Napolitano had this to say: “The government reach for more power to make its job easier, and people will allow it in order to feel safe. Liberty once sacrificed, never returns.”



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10 Responses to Violations of the Constitution – The Fourth Amendment

  1. Buck says:

    The Fourth Amendment is probably as much abused by law enforcement as is the Second.

  2. Clyde says:

    When you have an administration that picks and chooses which parts of the “flawed document” they will actually adhere to, it is no surprise others will follow suit. Very disturbing indeed. Good series, Kathy.

    • Kathy says:

      Thanks, Clyde. There’s no telling what this administration would do if it weren’t for that ‘flawed document’ in their way.

  3. BrianR says:

    I keep hearing the Boston Marathon event raised in discussions like this, and I have mixed ideas on that.

    Under normal circumstances the Boston cops had no authority to enter those people’s houses without warrants.


    They were searching for an at-large violent perpetrator who presented a clear and present danger to the public. As such, the “hot pursuit” exception kicks in.

    The good news for the residents of those homes: had the cops seen illegal activity after entering the houses, such as drugs laying around or something, they probably wouldn’t have been able to secure any criminal convictions against those people on those charges.

    • Kathy says:

      Thanks for throwing that out there, Brian. I didn’t know about the hot pursuit deal, so I had to go look it up. Evidently a lot of other folks didn’t either, since there’s been so much talk about Boston and the 4th amendment.

  4. Mrs AL says:

    The first video was interesting, Kathy. I have mixed thoughts about the scanmobile. If it were just being used for things/cargo being imported to the U.S., I could buy it. But use on the street, IMHO, is a big violation.

    As for the second video, was that some kind of show or something? That “policeperson” was not in line with the Constitution as I understand it. She was exceedingly annoying as well.

    Great post about the Fourth, Kathy. I really appreciate all your research.

    • Kathy says:

      Thanks, Mrs. AL. I’m pretty much in agreement with you on the first video, because tools like that are so apt to be misused.

      Yes, the cop in the second video had way too much attitude for me. That was from TLC and most likely a reenactment.

      • BrianR says:

        Well, I don’t think I agree. Bear in mind, it’s established law that there’s no “expectation of privacy” when you’re out in public places, such as a street.

        The technology in that van has been used for at least a couple of decades that I know about as a countermeasure to sneak nuclear attack. It’s one of NEST’s most valuable tools.