Fourth Amendment: Searches and Seizures

May 2011 Issue

The Fourth Amendment is one of the cornerstones of the American Bill of Rights, safeguarding individuals against unreasonable searches and seizures.

This right was of central importance to our nation's founders, yet some argue, has been reduced a mere technicality in contemporary courts.

Why did the founders value this right? What constitutes a "reasonable" search or seizure? How have these ideas changed over time, particularly with the evolution of technology?

This issue of Insights explores the origins and evolution of the Fourth Amendment in our society, and the implications for individual rights.

Teaching Resources


Airport Scanners and the Fourth Amendment
Lesson from the Bill of Rights Institute

Explore the Olmstead Search Warrant
Virtual document analysis lesson from the National Archives.

Olmstead v. United States Background and Case Study
Summary and teaching packet from the Federal Judicial Center.

Search and Seizure lessons from the U.S. Courts
Includes a simulated teen house party search, and a lesson on cell phone record searches.

Streetlaw's Landmark Cases of the Supreme Court
Each case offers summaries, links to additional resources, and teaching opportunities. Fourth Amendment cases include Mapp v. Ohio, New Jersey v. T.L.O., and Safford v. Redding.