The fourth amendment of the US Constitution prevents search and seizure without a warrant in many cases unless there is probably cause to assume that an individual is violating the law (McInnis, 2010). Evidence that law agents collect during an unlawful search and seizure is not admissible as evidence. This is the result of an Exclusionary Rule. Probably Cause means that a law enforcement officer or agency must have enough evidence to demonstrate that any reasonable person might believe a crime was committed, and such proof can be presented to the appropriate judicial representative who can then issue a law enforcement agent a warrant to search the premises (Schulhofer, 2012). This law is provided to prevent unwarranted searches of citizens and seizures. In this case, reasonable suspicion exists because the police were tipped off, but that does not exclude the need for a warrant.

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There are situations where a warrant may not be necessary; these are in cases where reasonable suspicion may arise in a vehicle, or due to an emergency, because failure to act might jeopardize public safety, or when observation of a criminal offense justifies search and seizure (Schulhofer, 2012). Probable cause is defined by the US Constitution, stating that people have a right to be secure in person, house, paper, and effect against unreasonable seizures (Schulhofer, 2012). Probable cause may be used to search, gain a warrant, or arrest depending on the circumstances and whether the fact support that a crime has been committed (Schulhofer, 2012).

Case law provides precedent for acting in such situations. In a case of Weeks v., the United States (1914), police officers searched a home without a warrant using a hidden key. The police officers in this case did not use a search warrant; in this case, initially the defendant was found guilty, but the Supreme Court reversed this decision noting that since a search warrant was not obtained, and probable cause was not used, then the search was illegal.

  • McInnis, T. (2010). The evolution of the fourth amendment, NY: Lexington Books.
  • Schulhofer, S. (2012). More essential than ever: The fourth amendment in the twenty-first century. London: Oxford University Press.
  • Weeks vs. the United States, (2014). 232 U.S. 383, US Supreme Court JUSTIA. Retrieved from