Essay On The Fourth Amendment


On September 25, 1789, colonists were finally able to spread their wings after being locked in a steel cage by the overbearing British. The 4th Amendment emerged with all its glory, protecting those facing the jury and those who walk the streets of the United States. The 4th Amendment must be upheld for the safety of all citizens, yet as history continues many court cases have forever changed its interpretation. As a result, the security once guaranteed to American citizens has slowly begun diminishing. 

After years of being denied fundamental freedoms, to protect early colonists from the British's constant unjustified searches and seizures, the 4th Amendment was finally established. Henceforth, the 4th Amendment has dutifully ensured citizen's liberty of privacy by allowing searches of a person or property to only be permissible with either a warrant or for a probable cause. Today, Michael Price an advocate of the 4th amendment writes passionately about its history and says, “John Adams and the Sons of Liberty found common cause with British dissidents like John Wilkes and set out to craft a broad prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures in the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights that specified “papers” as a category worthy of special protection” (Remember Why We Have the Fourth Amendment). This source establishes the opinions of advocates who seek to preserve the 4th Amendment and explains how crucial it was to be specifically protected by the founding fathers. 

To continue, diving into the deep issues procuring as we move into the future, many advancements in technology and new interpretations of what a “probable cause” means continue to blur the meaning of the 4th Amendment. A probable cause is proof an officer needs before taking action against someone who either committed a crime or has premeditated plans to do so. Therefore, without substantial evidence, an individual cannot be searched or seized under any circumstance. With this in mind, courts' final decisions depend heavily upon probable cause to determine if the accused is guilty or improperly handled by the police force (4th Amendment). For this reason, many inquiries are made about whether there was fabricated evidence, legitimate proof to begin with, or any indication of coercing interfering with the case and the validity of a probable cause. For example, the Terry v. Ohio case that began on October 31, 1963, when Martin McFadden attempted to prevent a preconceived armed robbery which led to an unsettling court decision on June 10, 1968. The indictment was based on an experienced officer, Martin McFadden, who observed suspicious behavior from Chilton, Terry, and Katz. These three men allegedly repeatedly circled one particular store window about 24 times. As the three men stood conversing in front of a store called Zucker's, the officer having 39 of experience as a policeman and a detective for 35, went to stop whatever plan he assumed was hatching (Terry V. Ohio:: 392 U.S. 1). After the officer found two revolvers on Chilton and Terry, he asked the owner of Zucker’s to call for a police wagon. The charges ultimately were illegally carrying concealed weapons on the afternoon of October 31, 1963, and would be a term of one to three years in the penitentiary. Due to the testimony was given by the seasoned and trustworthy McFadden, the jury trial was waived and Terry was found exclusively guilty. However, Louis Stokes, Terry’s defense, told the court that the officer searched without any solid evidence. To continue, there was to way for McFadden to know that Terry possessed a pistol so he could not have been just protecting himself. In rebuttal, Reuben M. Payne the prosecutor argued in defense of Ohio that a stop and frisk differed from a “search” as defined in the 4th Amendment. Furthermore, he pled that there was no harm and stopped someone if the police found an individual to be suspicious.  Also, according to David A. Mackey, a professor of criminal justice, “Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote the majority opinion, ruling that McFadden had the authority to conduct for officer safety a limited pat-down for weapons because the suspects were observed engaging in suspicious behavior that warranted inquiry by the police” (Terry V. Ohio | Definition, Background, & Significance | Britannica). The dismissal of this appeal only sent further affirmation to the trial court that first tried Terry. Creating a new category of laws that only police officers may not abide by for stop and frisks, Warren continued to write that it would be ridiculous for every officer to have to ask for a warrant to search a suspect if he harbored weapons. 

Furthermore, the landmark case Terry v. Ohio was the rocket fuel that launched the police force’s ability to commit such atrocities as in the Manuel v. Joliet trial. The Manuel v. Joliet contemporary case, involving Elijah Manuel, who was released after spending 48 days in pretrial detention for an illegal search and seizure at a traffic stop. This clear violation of his 4th amendment was dismissed in court after his appeal in Joliet, Illinois even after the discovery of fabricated evidence being involved. Formerly, Elijah was suspected of having an ecstasy pill hidden in a vitamin bottle in his car, yet after a field test and a laboratory test, the results were still negative for any drug substance (14-9496 Manuel V. Joliet). Nevertheless, as evidenced by the Reporter of Decisions, “Based on those false statements, another officer filed a sworn complaint charging Manuel with unlawful possession of a controlled substance” (14-9496 Manuel V. Joliet).  Later, Elijah revealed that the case began after a failed signal on the road when Elijah and his brother were then pulled over, beaten, racially profiled, and searched without consent or probable cause by the police. Unfortunately, this case is one of many that expressed clear disregard for the 4th Amendment and police brutality after an unreasonable stop and frisk. 

Given these points, the Terry v. Ohio landmark case showcased the importance of the 4th Amendment by displaying the effects of creating loopholes and giving that newfound power to one sole source. Soon after this ruling, the occurrences of stop and frisks became numerous and soon made illegal in New York during Shira Scheindlin’s time in office during 2013. The effects of this case not only created more excuses for racism within society but also irredeemable outcomes such as an increased number of innocents put behind bars. Infringing on the 4th Amendment has caused a never-ending domino effect that continues to plague court cases today.



 

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