How the Search Became the “Search”: The Ever Changing Evolution of the Search Under the Fourth Amendment

The area surrounding Fourth Amendment law and the use of certain tactics to gain evidence and insight as to what occurs within a home without a warrant has long been in debate, and recently further clarified by the Supreme Court in Florida v. Jardines. What constitutes a search and seizure within the rights of an individual is something that has been clearly outlined within the United States Constitution in the Fourth Amendment, or so the public seems to think. The rights are those that the people have to be free of such unreasonable searches and seizures in their houses, and persons, without a warrant that establishes probable cause. But understanding the actual concept of when you are being searched and if it is protected under the Fourth Amendment can be confusing. There are tests that have been developed by the courts to determine when a search under the Fourth Amendment has been conducted. If a “search” does not meet one of the tests that the courts use, there can be no violation of an individual’s afforded protections under the Fourth Amendment. Understanding these tests and when to apply them based on certain criteria and facts surrounding a search would mean understanding the origin and development of the cases. One of the first cases to emerge a test to determine when a search under the Fourth Amendment was being conducted was Katz v. United States. Then, with United States v. Jones and later cases, the Court reintroduced the trespass rationale to the reasonable expectation of privacy test. What Jardines, the most recent of these Fourth Amendment cases to be decided did, was solidify the limitations that have been placed on police officers regarding when they have the ability to gather information about a person, or their home, without a warrant and/or probable cause.

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