Thursday, June 30, 2011

fourth amendment

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits unreasonable search and seizures stating, “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 places to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.”[8] The law enforcement community repeatedly complains that the Fourth Amendment limits their ability to combat crime. Careful study reveals that the limitations upon law enforcement actually stem from the various and never ending decisions rendered by the courts in respect to their interpretation of the Fourth Amendment. New interpretations may expand or further limit the power of the police. Such changes often cause confusion and are subject to change and new interpretation at any time by the courts. Furthermore, the due process model does not limit itself to the Fourth Amendment. The police must also consider the individual rights of the accused in respect to many of the individual rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. For example, 1) a right to be assumed innocent until proven guilty, 2) a right against arrest without probable cause, 3) a right against self-incrimination, 4) a right to an attorney, and 5) a right to fair questioning by the police.[9] Of course this is just a small sampling of the individual rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and they are continually subject to change as interpreted by the courts. Where does it end? Do the rights of the individual outweigh the rights of the many? Proponents of the due process model argue that the rights of the one in fact represent the rights of the many. However, everyone does not always view the claims of victory by due process model proponents as just or moral for that matter. On March 21, 2001 the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) hailed a 6-3 decision by the United States Supreme Court “holding that pregnant women cannot be subject to warrantless, suspicionless searches simply because they are pregnant”.[10] The issue in question was presented in Ferguson V. City of Charleston, specifically related to a public hospitals policy that pregnant women be subjected to surreptitious drug screens of their urine, results of which were turned over to the police. The policy resulted in the arrest of twenty-nine women. The ACLU stated that the decision “sends a clear message that even a conservative court is not willing to allow the serious erosion of our basic constitutional rights in the name of the war on drugs.”[11] The decision in this case provided an example of the continuing debate in respect to the due process model. The decision rendered in Ferguson V. City of Charleston could be considered a weakness or strength of the due process model dependent upon your particular perspective.

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