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Summary of Fourth Amendment Law

Fourth Amendment – Search and Seizure

In order to be valid under the Fourth Amendment, a search warrant must, inter alia, “particularly describe the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” U.S. Const. Amend. IV. The purpose of this particularity requirement is to avoid “a general, exploratory rummaging in a person’s belongings.” Andresen v. Maryland, 427 U.S. 463, 480, 49 L. Ed. 2d 627, 96 S. Ct. 2737 (1976) (internal quotation marks omitted); Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443, 467, 91 S.Ct. 2022, 2038, 29 L.Ed.2d 564 (1971); see generally Stanford v. Texas, 379 U.S. 476, 481-85, 13 L. Ed. 2d 431, 85 S. Ct. 506 (1965) (describing history and purpose of particularity requirement). A sufficiently particular warrant describes the items to be seized in such a manner that it leaves nothing to the discretion of the officer executing the warrant. See Marron v. United States, 275 U.S. 192, 196, 72 L. Ed. 231, 48 S. Ct. 74 (1927). Although the Court ordinarily would begin its review of the decision of the district court by determining whether it erred in concluding the warrant failed to adequately particularize the items to be seized, the Court need not address that question even if the warrant was invalid where the evidence obtained during the search nevertheless was admissible pursuant to the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule. See United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 913, 82 L. Ed. 2d 677, 104 S. Ct. 3405 (1984).

For Example: Chesterfield Incident

Fourth Amendment – Unlawful Arrest

The Fourth Amendment safeguards “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” In reading the Amendment, the court is guided by “the traditional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures afforded by the common law at the time of the framing,” Wilson v. Arkansas, 514 U.S. 927, 931, 115 S.Ct. 1914, 131 L.Ed.2d 976 (1995), since “[a]n examination of the common-law understanding of an officer’s authority to arrest sheds light on the obviously relevant, if not entirely dispositive, consideration of what the Framers of the Amendment might have thought to be reasonable,” Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 591, 100 S.Ct. 1371, 63 L.Ed.2d 639 (1980) (footnote omitted). Atwater v. City of Lago Vista 532 U.S. 318, 326, 121 S.Ct. 1536, 1543 (U.S.,2001) The standard of probable cause “applie[s] to all arrests, without the need to ‘balance’ the interests and circumstances involved in particular situations.” Dunaway v. New York, 442 U.S. 200, 208, 99 S.Ct. 2248, 60 L.Ed.2d 824 (1979). If an officer has probable cause to believe that an individual has committed even a very minor criminal offense in his presence, he may, without violating the Fourth Amendment, arrest the offender. Atwater v. City of Lago Vista 532 U.S. 318, 354, 121 S.Ct. 1536, 1557 (U.S.,2001) Further, when an officer has “articulable suspicion” that crime is underway, the officer may investigate by stopping the individual for a short time and may frisk the person for weapons. (known as a “Terry stop and frisk”) Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968). Law enforcement officers do not violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable seizures merely by approaching individuals on the street or in other public places and putting questions to them if they are willing to listen. See, e.g., Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 497, 103 S.Ct. 1319, 75 L.Ed.2d 229 (1983) 201 plurality opinion); see id., at 523, n. 3, 103 S.Ct. 1319 (REHNQUIST, J., dissenting); Florida
v. Rodriguez, 469 U.S. 1, 5-6, 105 S.Ct. 308, 83 L.Ed.2d 165 (1984) (per curiam) (holding that such interactions in airports are “the sort of consensual encounter[s] that implicat[e] no Fourth Amendment interest”). Even when law enforcement officers have no basis for suspecting a particular individual, they may pose questions, ask for identification, and request consent to search luggage–provided they do not induce cooperation by coercive means. See Florida v. Bostick, 501 U.S., at 434-435, 111 S.Ct. 2382 (citations omitted). If a reasonable person would feel free to terminate the encounter, then he or she has not been seized. U.S. v. Drayton, 536 U.S. 194, 200-201, 122 S.Ct. 2105, 2110 (U.S.,2002)

For Example: Durney
v. Doss, et al. (pdf 652KB) Brief

Civil Law – Bivens and 1983 Claims for Fourth Amendment Violations

Individuals may sue federal officials under Bivens and state officials under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Both Bivens and § 1983 allow a plaintiff to seek money damages from government officials who have violated his Fourth Amendment rights. See § 1983; Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388, 397 91 S.Ct. 1999, 29 L.Ed.2d 619 (1971) (the U.S. Marshals Service respondents), But government officials performing discretionary functions generally are granted a qualified immunity and are “shielded from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982). Wilson v. Layne 526 U.S. 603, 609, 119 S.Ct. 1692, 1696 (U.S.Md.,1999).

Criminal Law – Exclusionary Rule for Some Fourth Amendment Violations

The exclusionary rule does not require suppression of evidence seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment where the erroneous information resulted from clerical errors of court employees. The exclusionary rule is a judicially created remedy designed to safeguard against future violations of Fourth Amendment rights through its deterrent effect. However, the issue of exclusion is separate from whether the Amendment has been violated. The  amendment does not expressly preclude the use of evidence obtained in violation of its commands, and exclusion is appropriate only where the rule’s remedial objectives are thought most efficaciously served. An example of a case where the Court found “no sound reason” to apply the exclusionary rule as a means of deterring misconduct on the part of judicial officers responsible for issuing search warrants is found in United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 104 S.Ct. 3405, 82 L.Ed.2d 677. The exclusionary rule was historically designed as a means of deterring police misconduct, not mistakes by court employees. See id., at 916, 104 S.Ct., at 3417. Arizona v. Evans 514 U.S. 1, 2, 115 S.Ct. 1185, 1187 (U.S.Ariz.,1995)

Criminal Law — Miranda Warnings

In Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), the Court held that certain warnings must be given before a suspect’s statement made during custodial interrogation could be admitted in evidence. Dickerson v. U.S. 530 U.S. 428, 431-432, 120 S.Ct. 2326, 2329 (U.S.,2000). Cases recognized two constitutional bases for the requirement that a confession be voluntary to be admitted into evidence: the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The due process test takes into consideration “the totality of all the surrounding circumstances–both the characteristics of the accused and the details of the interrogation.” The Court never abandoned this due process jurisprudence, and thus continue to exclude confessions that were obtained involuntarily. But the Court’s decisions in Malloy v. Hogan, 378 U.S. 1, 84 S.Ct. 1489, 12 L.Ed.2d 653 (1964), and Miranda changed the focus of much of the inquiry in determining the admissibility of suspects’ incriminating statements. In Malloy, The Court held that the Fifth Amendment’s Self-Incrimination Clause is incorporated in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and thus applies to the States. 378 U.S., at 6-11, 84 S.Ct. 1489. The Court decided Miranda on the heels of Malloy.

In Miranda, the Court noted that the advent of modern custodial police interrogation brought with it an increased concern about confessions obtained by coercion. 384 U.S., at 445-458, 86 S.Ct. 1602. Because custodial police interrogation, by its very nature, isolates and pressures the individual, the Court stated that “[e]ven without employing brutality, the ‘third degree’ or [other] specific stratagems, … custodial interrogation exacts a heavy toll on individual liberty and trades on the weakness of individuals.” Id., at 455, 86 S.Ct. 1602. The Court concluded that the coercion inherent in custodial interrogation blurs the line between voluntary and involuntary statements, and thus heightens the risk that an individual will not be “accorded his privilege under the Fifth Amendment … not to be compelled to incriminate himself.” Id., at 439, 86 S.Ct. 1602. Accordingly, the Court laid down “concrete constitutional guidelines for law enforcement agencies and courts to follow.” Id., at 442, 86 S.Ct. 1602. Those guidelines established that the admissibility in evidence of any statement given during custodial interrogation of a suspect would depend on whether the police provided the suspect with four warnings. These warnings (which have come to be known colloquially as “Miranda rights”) are: a suspect “has the right to remain silent, that anything he says can be used against him in a court of law, that he has the right to the presence of an attorney, and that if he cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for him prior to any questioning if he so desires.” Id., at 479, 86 S.Ct. 1602. Dickerson v. U.S. 530 U.S. 428, 434-435, 120 S.Ct. 2326, 2331 (U.S.,2000)

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