Fourth Amendment Developments

Home » Insights » Fourth Amendment Developments

by | March 24, 2014

The text of the Fourth Amendment is seemingly straight forward:

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.

Yet judicial interpretation and application of this basic right continues to evolve.  The Supreme Court’s February decision in Fernandez v. California (opinion here), which reassessed the government’s right to search jointly occupied premises based on one of the occupant’s consent was discussed here.

And recently, Magistrate Judge John Facciola of the District of Columbia has issued a number of decisions rejecting the Government’s request for a search warrant.  The decisions are interesting because Judge Facciola refused to grant the requested warrants not because the Government did not demonstrate probable cause, but because he did not believe the Government needed a warrant to begin with.  The Volokh Conspiracy has additional details on these cases here.  

While these developments focus on the legal standard for a search or seizure, the conduct of a search is also in the news.  This month’s Economist discusses the militarization of America’s police forces (article here).