US Criminal Law/Search and seizure

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Constitution of the United States, page 1.jpg

Search and seizure

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Secret Service agent trainees practice executing a search warrant.jpg

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that:

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 courts in interpreting this have determined that searches conducted with a search warrant are assumed to be reasonable and searches without a search warrant are assumed to be unreasonable and therefore illegal. However, the courts have also determined several exceptions to the requirement of a search warrant. For a warrant to issue, there must be these five requirements:

  1. Probable cause
  2. Oath or affirmation of probable cause
  3. Particularly describing places to be searched, and what is to be searched for and/or seized
  4. Signed by the Judicial Branch (a judge, essentially)
  5. Executed by the Executive Branch (the police, in general)

Further Reading[edit]