Explain how the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Supreme Court work together to regulate the police.
Both the United States Constitution and the Supreme Court create legal definitions of what police can and cannot do. While the Constitution, including amendments beginning with the Bill of Rights (a name referring to the first 10 amendments collectively), creates the law of the United States, the Supreme Court functions to interpret the Constitution, especially in those cases where nothing is explicitly said about a specific issue in the Constitution. This becomes increasingly important as new technologies evolve such as mobile phones, surveillance cameras, and social media that did not exist when the Constitution was written.
Three amendments to the Constitution are specifically relevant to policing.
Amendment 4: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures . . .
Amendment 5: No person shall be . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.
Amendment 6: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury . . . and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
Supreme Court decisions have added many details to these rights and affected police procedures. The 1996 Miranda versus Arizona Supreme Court decision required that suspects be informed of their rights. More recent decisions affect things such as under what circumstances cell phone data and social media information may be obtained or used by the police.
The Bill of Rights, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, regulates police behavior in many ways. These ways are centered around the 4th Amendment (prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures) , 5th Amendment, (protection against self-incrimination, guarantee of due process), and 6th Amendment (right to an attorney). The Supreme Court has used these amendments in many cases to tell police what they may and may not do in conducting criminal investigations. These include such famous cases as Miranda v. Arizona in which the police were told that they have to inform suspects of their rights before questioning them. The Supreme Court applies the Bill of Rights to various situations related to police actions. In this way, police conduct is regulated by the Court and the amendments.
The Bill of Rights, as interpreted by the Supreme Court and other courts, regulates the police by dictating to them what procedures they may and may not use in trying to apprehend suspects and gather evidence about them.
The most important part of the Bill of Rights in this regard is the 4th Amendment. Court interpretations of this amendment regulate when police need warrants to search people and property.
Another important amendment is the 5th Amendment. It is this amendment which gave rise to the famous Miranda case which requires police to read suspects their rights.