Unreasonable Searches & Seizures

Unreasonable Searches and Seizures

The Fourth Amendment guarantees of our rights to be secure in our person, houses, papers, and effects protects two of our most fundamental constitutional values: privacy and protection from arbitrary government actions. Every Fourth Amendment case poses at least two questions for the courts: 1) Did the police action at issue really constitute a "search" or "seizure" within the meaning of the Amendment? 2) If so, was it "unreasonable"? In answering those questions, courts must decide how to apply the Fourth Amendment guarantees to circumstances the founders could not have envisioned in 1791. Thus every major change in technology-be it the telephone, the automobile, or personal computer-has generated new lines of court cases. In addition, renewed concerns about national security and intelligence gathering capabilities have led Congress to pass legislation, such as the U.S.A. Patriot Act (2001), with implications for our privacy. Some commentators have maintained that The Patriot Act has given the government "too much power" to spy on us. Others maintain that serious threats require new and serious tools. We are living through an age of new frontiers for Fourth Amendment law.

Have adequate checks and balances been implemented to protect us from arbitrary government actions today? What are reasonable expectations of privacy for our current age and our future? To what extent do Americans today hold privacy and freedom from arbitrary government actions to be fundamental constitutional values? These are some of the issues raised by the discussion starters under the topic "unreasonable searches and seizures."

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