Written by attorney Theodore W. Robinson

What is 4th Amendment all about and what does it matter to me? Part 1

The 4th Amendment says "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 4th Amendment was adopted to grant American citizens within the United States protection against "unreasonable searches and seizures" because of the widespread invasions of privacy experienced by the early American colonists by the British Government. They used something called "writs of assistance" to give their officers wide discretion to conduct searches of the homes of colonial citizens. This was their way of discovering any violations of the strict British customs laws then in effect. The practice led to a deep awareness among the citizens and especially in the people who drafted the original Constitution about the threat of unfettered governmental power over individual citizens. Unfortunately, lately, the 4th Amendment protections have lost much of their prior vitality due to the terrorists threats we are all subjected to on a regular basis, however, the very basis of our freedom in this country is to be free of governmental intervention without probable cause. Because people are so scared of outside forces trying to kill and maim us, the courts have been allowing the erosion of this very important right - all in the name of keeping us safe. The question to be asked lately is: from whom are we to be kept safe from if we no longer can enjoy our basic freedoms that were once established by the Constitution that formed our country?

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