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What are the pros and cons of the fourth amendment?

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I think that the pros are very self evident.  The basic premise of the Fourth Amendment is that individuals are not subjected to unfair searches and seizures of their property.  There is a level of check that the individual citizen has against the authority structure, a fairly well insulated and reasonable right to privacy being implied.  The Framers' experience of this proved it to be a pro in adoption.  Colonists felt completely disrespected and violated with British troops forcing their way into colonial homes at odd hours of the night, with no probable cause nor reason.  When protesting such actions, James Otis' line resonated loudly that "A man's home is his castle."  Such a sentiment moved into the adoption of the 4th Amendment.  I am not one to see cons, but in a larger sense, any amendment is susceptible to being used as a shield by those who wish to do harm and I suppose the 4th Amendment is not immune to this.  The amendment does create a strict boundary between a legally ordained and properly executed search and one that it isn't.  I supposed that ensuring that police officers and law enforcement follow the letter of the law in the 4th Amendment could be considered by some to be a con.  The case of Mapp vs. Ohio would be one instance of this, where an improper search causes "fruit of the poison tree" whereby law enforcement is not allowed to take any evidence from the improper search.  Yet, I would simply say that this is not a con as much as it is a standard which helps to make American law enforcement better than all the rest because they must follow the highest of standards and conduct in their work.

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This amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. It also requires probable cause for searches and arrests and requires a judge to sign arrest warrants. Simplified, it means that if a person is stopped to be searched, an officer must have a good excuse – a good reason for thinking that a search is necessary. That is what “probable cause” means.

The pros: suspected drunk drivers can be stopped and prevented from killing someone; suspicious-acting people boarding airplanes can be stopped to prevent terrorism; kids bringing weapons to school can be searched to have the weapon removed, saving lives – your locker can even be searched in school if there is probable cause; a person’s locker or backpack can be searched if there is reason to suspect you have a weapon or drugs; fleeing criminals can be apprehended if a police officer spots a car speeding or driving erratically; cars can be inspected during an Amber Alert if there is suspicion that an abducted child may be inside.

Cons: overzealous law enforcement agents may search people without the proper “probable cause”; people might be racially profiled unnecessarily if they look like a terrorist or an illegal alien; some people believe searches are an invasion of privacy; some people have been unnecessarily injured, roughed up and even killed during searches, even when there is “probable cause”; in the state where I live, a man was killed because the police barged into his home looking for crack (they had probable cause), but they had the wrong address, so an innocent man was killed.

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The pros of placing limits on the power of the government to search a person or their property fall along the lines of protecting individual citizens from government excess.  If a local Sheriff wanted to harass me each day by kicking in my door at 5 AM and tossing over bookshelves, I'm protected against that.  It supports the principle that I am innocent until proven guilty, and that the state must make its case through due process of law.

On the other hand, time and again we watch as a known criminal is let go because the evidence was not gathered according to probable cause or a warrant.  The evidence wasn't planted, they really had the guns or drugs, but are turned loose because of improper procedure.  Keeping the 4th amendment means sometimes letting criminals loose to commit more crimes so that we can be sure our police follow the law. It's a frustrating trade off sometimes, but one we have made knowing how important the right to privacy is to each of us.

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