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  • Writer's pictureMichael Sauls

You Need a Warrant for That

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.

As I continue my discussions of the bill of rights I am now discussing the fourth Amendment. Again this amendment deals with citizens right to privacy, in particular dealing with the authority searching you or your property. In particular this amendment tries to define what is reasonable in the eyes of the law. We as citizens don't want officers to go around randomly kicking in doors for no reason, but we also have a reasonable expectation that our police will work to keep the community safe.

The topic of probable cause has been a much debated thing for many years. In the future what we now define as searching you or your property will probably come under further scrutiny. With technology it is now possible for an officer to search a person without their knowledge or consent. Maintaining privacy and keeping officers honest in their need to search will be an ongoing challenge.

What is probable cause? Just because technology has made searching people as easy as pointing a scanner at them; is it alright for officers to do so? If they find something by pointing a scanner at a random person for no reason would it be usable in court since it was obtained without a warrant or probable cause?

What recourse would citizens have for other more nefarious uses of technology? For example as they continue to invent tech that can see through clothing I am reminded of the "up skirt" video website that was taken down a few years ago. There was this creep making videos without the permission of the women that he was filming. Then he put them up on a porn site without their knowledge. I don't know if scanner technology will ever get that detailed, but if it does then you can be certain that someone will abuse it.

They have also developed a number of ways to spy on people and search their homes without physically going into people's homes. They can turn cameras and microphones on computers and phones without you even knowing that they are doing it. If they see something captured in a video that is all the excuse they need to come after you.

The final issue that I have often wondered about is the use of police animals. Police animals in many ways are considered the same as human police officers. For example if someone hurts or kills a police animal they will be charged the same as if they attacked a human officer. Now if a police officer gets a warrant and uses a police animal in that search I don't see a problem with that, but if a random person is walking down the sidewalk and they encounter a police animal then the animal reacts to a smell they could get searched. I wonder if this does not fall into the same prickly trap that we do with technology. Isn't that dog sniffing a random person in public really searching them without probable cause? Are police officer animals held to the same standards as human police or do they get to ignore the constitution?

Discussing and learning about the constitution is important for these reasons. The more the authorities do these things and get away with it, the more people accept that it is alright. It takes a person to know their rights and to be willing to stand up to put an end to these illegal abuses of power.

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