The concept of search warrants, probable cause, and searches go hand in hand as part of the legal system. Each step makes the next step part of the process. This process gives us certain civil liberties and are all rooted in the 4th Amendment of the Constitution of The United State of America. The following information will interpret, define, and support the legal justification of warrants, probable cause, and searches.
The definition of a search warrant is a judicial document that authorizes police officers the right to search an individual or a place to attain evidence for presentation in criminal prosecutions.A search warrant is issued to search people or private property in order to seize suspected evidence in a criminal or civil case. The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution addresses the issues of search warrants rights in the following: 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. ”Agreeing with The Constitutional Theory of the Fourth Amendment (1988), our forefathers of America recognized during the fight for freedom the harm and abuses that occurred in the colonies to innocent people by the British. When declaring our independence the framers of the Constitution made provisions to protect rights of the every day citizen. This was based on a fear that a police state in any form has the potential to become chaotic and problematic when it has not recognized that freedom and liberty is meaningless when victimization by the police is a real and menacing threat.
Subsequently this amendment was designed to protect the rights of individuals from unlawful search and seizures. Search warrant laws designate when a warrant is or not required to search an individual or private property of an individual. Police officers who want to conduct a search must obtain a search warrant by submitting affidavits and other evidence to a judge to establish probable cause in order to believe a search will produce evidence related to a crime. In accordance with The Fourth Amendment, the provisions of this amendment are essentially about privacy.This freedom protects against unreasonable searches by state or federal law enforcement authorities. Sadly, this particular freedom is misinterpreted in popular culture. So much that a recent debate was generated by Rep.
Alan B. Williams (FL) when he decided to quote a line from Grammy Award Winner Hip-Hop artist Jay-Z’s song “99 Problems” at the House of Representatives saying: “I know my rights, so you will need a warrant for that. Aren’t you as sharp as a tack? Are you a lawyer or something? ” The dispute was over an amendment to the Florida State Code that would allow certain type of hearsay as evidence in criminal cases.Not only are Jay-Z’s lines misquoted, the correct lyrics by Jay-Z are misinterpretation of what The Fourth Amendment entails. In the song, Jay-Z, objects to a search of his locked trunk and glove compartment where a weapon and possibly drugs are located.
According to Professor Caleb Mason in his 19-page review (2012) of the song in relation to search warrants, this is a classic example of perpetuating an incorrect perception of how the Fourth Amendment works. If done correctly a search warrant will be issued with probable cause.According to Ballentine’s Law dictionary (1994), probable cause is a reasonable amount of suspicion, which is supported by circumstances sufficiently strong enough to justify a judicious and cautious person’s confidence that certain facts are probably true. In relationship with law enforcement, probable cause refers to the prerequisite in criminal law that police have sufficient reason to arrest someone, conduct a search, or seize property relating to an alleged crime while keeping in mind that all suspects are innocent until proven guilty.Probable cause requirements are clearly stated in the Fourth Amendment of the U. S. Constitution, which states that: “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 searched.
” Like most of our rights that are protected and guaranteed by the Constitution, recent events in our country’s history have once again redefined grounds for probable cause.After the terrorist attacks on of September 11th, 2001on United States soil probable cause has taken on a new definition in regards to national security. Although no one should be convicted of a crime unless the evidence proved their guilt beyond the shadow of a doubt, the burden of proof for arresting an individual has been a great debate with the introduction of The Patriot Act. However, probable cause is met when facts and circumstances to a police officer have led him or her to arrest, searches, or seizure of property.These conclusions are reached if a person has committed a crime.
These conclusions are also met when a particular place has been the scene of a crime or the said place contains evidence of a crime, or property contains contraband, stolen goods, or establishes evidence of crime. Sadly, when it comes to searches the average citizen is not aware of their own rights or the rights of law enforcement. There are certain searches that are down with legal justification and without a warrant.The simplest of all searches without a warrant are consent searches. This search is initiated with one simple question, “May I come inside and take a look around? ” If the person in control of the premises answers yes they have effectively volunteered freely to a search of the premises.
However, each individual has the right to say no as well. Commonly, these types of searches are seen on reality oriented law enforcement television shows when officers are looking for and arrive at the home or known location of a suspect.The officers ask the person in control of the premises of the last where-abouts of the suspect and unbeknownst to the officers the suspect goes running out of the back door and a chase ensues.
Plain view exemptions are one of the easiest for a law enforcement officer to imply if done correctly. No warrant is needed for a search or seizure has a legitimate reason for being in a location in which evidence can be viewed. For example, here in my hometown a warrant was served for a well-known person for illegal chicken fighting.However, when officers arrived on the premises, in the far end of the area where chickens were being fought there were several marijuana plants in plain sight being cultivated in plant holders. Law enforcement officers seized the chickens and the marijuana.
However, if the police had come onto the property without the warrants and viewed the drugs in plain there would be no provision for a legal seizure. Stop and frisk searches for me was my first introduction to any form of the law.This entails a search where an officer and briefly frisk the outer part of your clothes. However, an officer has the right to search pockets if he feels what he believes to be a weapon. If an officer finds a weapon, at that point and time an officer may legally arrest you. These types of searches may also lead to searching of areas within a suspect’s control. I person encountered this search during an unfortunate event, which occurred at the age of 14, while playing basketball in a notorious tough neighborhood park.
Many illegal activities were taking place around the basketball court and upon the arrival of police; drugs and drug paraphilia were thrown into plain view onto the basketball court as actual criminals ran away. Being for lack of a better word “stupid” I stood on the court with a basketball obliviously to why what I deemed as ordinary people would run at the sight of the police. My sweaty clothes and person were frisked and the search resulted in seventy-five cents in change and a half eaten honey bun.
Although, I was standing within mere feet of illegal drugs, another officer from the community vouched for my very naive character and challenged the officer to articulate a reasonable reason to arrest me. The officer was unable to do so and gave me a stern warning about the company I keep. This is a persuasive case or rationale why warrantless searches work for both law enforcement and citizens. Motor vehicle searches or exceptions are done without warrants due to the time constraints of warrants due to automobiles being mobile.Although the exception insinuates automobiles, any moving vehicle and boats count as well. Warrants are not needed when an officer of the law has probable cause that a vehicle contains evidence of a crime, fruits or a crime, or contraband. For example if a van is coming across the border and is suspected of smuggling people and tool box is found then searching the tool box would not be permissible. However, if the same van is suspected for smuggling drugs, the same tool box can be searched, as well as the glove compartment.
Sorry Jay-Z.In conclusion, to obtain a search warrant, a law enforcement officer is required first prove before judge with sufficient facts that probable cause exists (Neubauer, 2004). The reason should be based upon direct information, which is obtained by the officer’s personal observation and conclusions. The search warrant is required be specific and must include the specified object or place to be searched. There are exceptions for searches without warrants but they must be made with probable cause in accordance with the law and constitutional rights.ReferencesHandler, J. G. (1994).
Ballentine’s Law Dictionary (Legal Assistant ed.). Albany: Delmar. p. 431 Cacace, Robert (2007), Samson v.
California: Tearing down a Pillar of Fourth Amendment Protections, 42, Harv. C.R.
-C.L. L. Rev., pp. 223 Gerard, Bradley, The Constitutional Theory of the Fourth Amendment, 38 DePaul L. Rev. 817 (1988) Mason, Caleb, JAY-Z’S 99 PROBLEMS, VERSE 2: A CLOSE READING WITH FOURTH AMENDMENT GUIDANCE FOR COPS AND PERPS, Saint Louis University School of Law.
Neubauer, D.W. (2004). America’s Courts and the Criminal Justice System. Published by Thomson Wadsworth Criminal courts/ United StatesCriminal Justice (2008) Retrieved June 26, 2008 from https://mycampus.aiu-online.com/classroom/multimediacoursetext.aspx?classid=15301&t