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Understanding the 4th Amendment

American citizens are guaranteed certain rights within the United States Constitution. One of those rights is in the 4th Amendment, which protects citizens against unlawful searches and seizures.

Police officers may not always stay on the right side of the law, either intentionally or unintentionally. Therefore, it is up to New York citizens to educate themselves about their rights. All people should understand what protections the 4th Amendment provides, and understanding it more thoroughly may help one day.

Within the home

A police officer cannot search a person’s home without a warrant. There are some exceptions to this. For example, if a piece of evidence were to be in plain view, such as drug paraphernalia being visible from a window, then an officer could come into a home due to probable cause. Additionally, officers can search a home if the occupants invite them inside.

Within cars

The police can only pull over a vehicle if it they suspect the driver committed a traffic violation. This means they cannot pull over people without any kind of explanation. The officer has to tell the driver the reason for the stop. A search of the vehicle cannot take place unless probable cause is present. For instance, if a drug dog is there and reacts a certain way, then the police could search the car.

Within someone’s person

When walking down the street, a police officer cannot randomly stop people. In New York, there have been controversies over the years about the stop-and-frisk policy, although there have been efforts to curb those tactics. The 4th Amendment generally states that a person must be suspected of involvement in a criminal activity, and an officer can only ask questions to gather more information about said activity.

An educated population is a safe population. All people should understand the Constitution because it may one day prove to be a great asset.  

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