What is the 4th Amendment?
The 4th Amendment is about Search and Seizure and therefore often referred to as the Search and Seizure Clause or the Warrant Clause.
Summary of the 4th Amendment
Summary: The 4th Amendment states that the government cannot arrest a person or search their property unless there is "probable cause" that a crime has been committed.
4th Amendment - Search and Seizure
George Washington was the first American President who served in office from April 30, 1789 to March 4, 1797. One of the key events during his presidency was the ratification of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution. The first 10 Amendments to the Constitution are collectively known as the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights, which includes the 4th amendment, was ratified (meaning approved) on December 15, 1791.
4th Amendment Simplified Summary
A simplified summary of the 4th Amendment is:
Arrest and Searches
Cause and Reason for the 4th Amendment
The cause or reason for this addition to the Constitution was due to the British searching the homes of many Patriots. People were subjected to rough treatment if any resistance was shown. The reason for this addition was therefore to ensure that citizens would feel safe in their own homes.
4th Amendment Meaning, Explanation and Summary
The outrage of the early colonists against the treatment, and the laws, imposed by the British led to the addition of the Bill of Rights to the Constitution. The meaning of the words and phrases in the 4th Amendment of the Constitution are explained as follows:
4th Amendment: Meaning of the Words of the Amendment
|"The right of the people..."
|Meaning: The importance of this addition to the Constitution is emphasized by this forceful opening phrase.
This amendment was added as a result of the Writs of Assistance that were imposed on American colonists by the English Parliament together with certain provisions in 1767 Townshend Acts.
Writs of Assistance were search warrants
The Writs of Assistance, search warrants, were issued by provincial courts to assist the British government in enforcing trade and Navigation Laws and anti-smuggling provisions in Colonial America.
Writs of Assistance, or search warrants, authorized customhouse officers, with the assistance of a sheriff, justice of the peace, or constable, to search any house for smuggled goods without specifying either the house or the goods.
In cases of resistance it was permissible to break open doors, chests, trunks, and other packages (provisions in 1767 Townshend Acts).
One of the laws of the 1767 Townsend Acts was called the Commissioners of Customs Act, as a reprisal to the Boston Tea Party. Colonists were outraged because this Act gave tax collectors the unprecedented authority to search the ships & warehouses of merchants without official regulation.
|"...to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures..."
|Meaning: Never again should American citizens be made to feel unsafe in their own homes. Only searches of premises and the seizure of goods should be allowed if there was a justified, reasonable cause.
|"...shall not be violated... "
|Meaning: The word violated is a very strong word conveying the sense of outrage at searches and seizures that had been believed to be unfair and unlawful
|"...and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation..."
|Meaning: This is saying that to obtain a search warrant, law enforcement must show probable cause, supported by an oath or affirmation. A judge would need to find probable cause by examining the full circumstances of each case before issuing a Search Warrant.
|"...and particularly describing the place to be searched"
|Meaning: This made it clear that a Search Warrant applied to one, specific location where there was just cause to make a search of the premises.
|"...and the persons or things to be seized."
|Meaning: This made it clear that applied to specific people and specific items.
4th Amendment: Meaning of the Words of the Fourth Amendment
4th Amendment Text - The Fourth Amendment
The original full text of the 4th Amendment of the Constitution is as follows:
4th Amendment Text
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.
Who wrote the 4th Amendment of the Constitution?
James Madison, the "Father of the Constitution", wrote the 4th Amendment in 1789 as one of the first 10 amendments collectively known as the Bill of Rights. The 4th amendment about Search and Seizure was ratified on December 15, 1791.
The 4th Amendment - President George Washington Video
The article on the 4th Amendment of the Constitution provides the text, definition and history of one of the major achievements of his presidential term in office. The following video will give you additional important facts and dates about the political events experienced by the 4th American President whose presidency spanned from April 30, 1789 to March 4, 1797.