The curriculum unit presented will examine Amendment Four of the Constitution. Certain provisions in the Constitution contain express limitations on governmental activities in criminal investigations. These important limitations were adopted to protect all citizens against the excesses of law enforcement and to safeguard the privacy interests of each citizen. The Fourth Amendment provides such protection stating-" The right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, paper, 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 person or things to be seized."
Two general rules should be stated regarding the Fourth Amendment. First, since it is unreasonable searches and seizures that are prohibited, the legality of a search is determined by a standard of reasonableness. One example of this rule is the probable cause requirement, which provides that an officer must have probable cause to conduct a search without a warrant. Second, the Fourth Amendment is generally interpreted to require that a warrant be obtained for a search whenever it is practicable to do so.
This unit will investigate pivotal issues surrounding the controversy of search and seizure as they have evolved over the years. The Bill of Rights promises individuals protection against the strong hands of the government. It is the Supreme Court, however, that has made this guarantee a practical, living reality. Often at odds with public opinion and the interests of the powerful, the Supreme Court has woven individual rights into the fabric of American life.
Teachers will find this unit helpful when studying the Bill of Rights. Students will come to understand that there is a delicate balance between the protections guaranteed to citizens under the Fourth Amendment and the protections provided to society from crime. This balance is constantly changing and often reflects the changing values and attitudes of our society, as well as the changing political face of the United States Supreme Court. Supreme Court cases will be studied and students will be challenged to think about the complex questions raised by the need to balance criminal enforcement with the value of privacy and individual freedom. This topic offers many opportunities for involving a class in lively discussions about some of the critical issues of our time.
There will be six objectives in this unit. First, students will be able to trace the development of the Fourth Amendment as well as understand the purposes it serves. Second, students will become aware of the necessary requirements that must be included in a valid search warrant. Third, students will examine the many instances when a legal search may be conducted without a warrant. Fourth, students will understand that automobile searches have proven controversial and in recent years the concept of racial profiling has been examined. Fifth, students will understand the significance of the exclusionary rule. Sixth, students will examine the issue of the right to privacy versus search in the schools.