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.
U.S. CONST. amend. IV. The basic purpose of the Fourth Amendment, “as recognized in countless decisions of this Court, is to safeguard the privacy and security of individuals against arbitrary invasions by governmental officials.” Camara v. Municipal Court, 387 U.S. 523, 528 (1967).
This Court has traditionally interpreted the reasonableness standard of the Fourth Amendment as creating a presumptive warrant requirement, stating that in the absence of a warrant, “a search is reasonable only if it falls within a specific exception to the warrant requirement.” Riley v. California, 134 S. Ct. 2473, 2482 (2014).
The Fourth Amendment prefers warrants because warrants guarantee detached objective reasonableness in ways that warrant exceptions cannot. As this Court has said:
The point of the Fourth Amendment, which often is not grasped by zealous officers, is not that it denies law
enforcement the support of the usual inferences which reasonable men draw from evidence. Its protection consists in requiring that those inferences be drawn by a neutral and detached magistrate instead of being judged by the officer engaged in the often competitive enterprise of ferreting out crime. Any assumption that evidence sufficient to support a magistrate’s disinterested
determination to issue a search warrant will justify the officers in making a search without a warrant would reduce the Amendment to a nullity and leave the people’s homes secure only in the discretion of police officers. When the right
of privacy must reasonably yield to the right of search is, as a rule, to be decided by a judicial officer, not by a policeman or Government enforcement agent. Coolidgev. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443, 449-50 (1971).
The “ultimate touchstone,” BrighamCity v. Stuart, 547 U.S. 398, 403 (2006),
of the Fourth Amendment has always been reasonableness:
The test of reasonableness
under the Fourth Amendment is not capable of precise definition or mechanical application. In each case it requires a balancing of the need for the particular search against the invasion of personal rights that the search entails. Courts must consider the scope of the particular intrusion, the manner in which it is conducted, the justification for initiating it, and the place in which it is conducted. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 559 (1979).
© 2015 Darren Chaker. All Rights Reserved.