Civil Rights Essay, Research Paper
One night John Doe is driving down the freeway and is pulled over for a
routine traffic violation. After issuing poor Johnny a traffic ticket the
officer asks him one little question that could change Johnny’s insignificant
life forever. “May I search your car?” Now imagine if you were in John’s
position, how would you have responded to the question. Would you have just
said yes and let the officer go through your personal belongings, or would
you say no. If you were to say no could it lead to consequences, or would
you be free to leave.
“Sir, can we search your vehicle?” When asked this by an officer of the law,
have you ever questioned whether or not saying no would be an intelligent
response, or if it would just lead to more difficulty? What makes viable
grounds to perform a search of a person, vehicle, or structure by law
enforcement? What is this so-called, “probable cause”? The fourth amendment
is unclear regarding boundaries law enforcement must abide by when conducting
either a search or seizure. It states that probable cause is enough
justification for a legal search and seizure. But what defines probable
The fourth amendment can apply to vehicles, homes or even you physically.
The only restriction imposed by the constitution is that the officer must
have probable cause to conduct a search. Probable cause could be a multitude
of things. The interpretation from one person, or police officer, to the
next could be completely different. This could make for difficulties for
trying to prove that an illegal search and seizure was preformed in the event
of it taking place. But really, what is probable cause? If you were spotted
swerving on the road could the officer suspect you of drinking and driving
and search your car? Or maybe you might have a left over baggy on your
dashboard that has white powdered sugar in it from the doughnut that it used
to contain. Could an officer use the excuse that it may be cocaine and
search you? Could nervous behavior be used as an excuse? The officer could
say that you were acting suspicious and search you. All of these are
possible instances that could take place. Do all of them seem quite fair?
Searches can be conducted in different ways. Police can search an
individual, a person’s vehicle, and also their home or any other structure.
When searching and individual the police could be looking for a plethora of
things. These range from stolen property, to weapons, or even drugs and drug
related articles. Some examples of probable cause to search an individual
would be suspected shoplifting, or possibly reported drug use. However an
officer may have had a tip that a person could be carrying illegal material
and search you. Would tips and sources be considered a probable cause? This
is just one of the shady areas left to interpretation. Evidence in a
courtroom can be thrown out or dismissed purely because the manner in which
it was obtained was thought to violate the fourth amendment. The call for the
dismissal of evidence is left solely upon the judge in such court cases.
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