Constitution of the United States

Start Free Trial

Does the literal text of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution specifically protect privacy?


Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The literal text of the Fourth Amendment says the following:

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.

From this, we can clearly see that there is no right to privacy that is specifically stated in the literal words of the amendment.  Instead, the amendment simply says that people should be "secure" from "unreasonable searches and seizures."  This protection applies to people's bodies, their homes, and their property.

From this (and from other amendments), courts have inferred that there is a right to privacy.  They have argued that we have a right to privacy if we have a right to have our homes and our bodies be secure from being searched without a good reason.

The actual Fourth Amendment does not literally protect people's "privacy."  Instead, it protects their bodies, homes, and property from being searched or seized without good reason.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Does the Fourth Amendment specifically protect privacy?

I think that the Fourth Amendment was designed to safeguard the idea of privacy.  It is not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution in the most specific of terms, but it is hinted at in many locations.  One such area would be in the Fourth Amendment.  The idea of the Framers seeking to develop some type of respite from the condition created by the Writs of Assistance was a part of the Fourth Amendment's construction.  This condition was one in which the Colonists were able to have their belongings, goods, and person searched without any need for official documentation or official pause.  The idea of constructing a sphere whereby the individual possessed some Constitutional idea of privacy to the extent that the authorities must specifically state the contours of the speech helps to ensure that privacy is a part of the Constitutional guarantees to all of its citizens.  It is here in which the Constitution speaks loud and resonates clearly to the idea that privacy is a reasonable expectation on the part of the individual.  In this, it is protected and revered by the Fourth Amendment.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on