The Bill of Rights (Part Two)

Here is the second part of interpreting the Bill of Rights – arguably the universal rights to which a freedom-loving people would strive for. In this entry, the next two amendments will be discussed. The Third and Fourth Amendments are rather about real estate law and the right of privacy. Let’s take a look:

Third Amendment: No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner be prescribed by law.

As we already know, the Bill of Rights came into effect on December 15, 1971, 15 years after the passage of the Declaration of Independence from England: July 4, 1776. This amendment was written especially for that period of time – for the purpose of making it clear how to proceed, provided that England decides to attack again – and that’s one of the reasons why it is probably the least discussed of the ten amendments. It explains the soldiers’ and house owners’ rights and responsibilities both during wartime and in time of peace. If there is war going on on U.S. territory, it’s the federal law, if any, that determines whether or not – and how – a U.S. soldier can use someone’s house as a means of shelter. In time of peace, it is the owner of the house the one to determine it.

Fourth Amendment: 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.

This amendment provides the right of privacy of the individual in their home. Whatever they do there, no one – regardless of their job title – has the right to invade the individual’s property, unless there is probable cause supported by oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched. In other words, there must be some very consistent evidence that something illegal is going on in that property which, moreover, has to be supported by oath or affirmation in order for there to be reasonable search or seizure allowed. Besides, it has to be confirmed where to search. For example, if the oath or affirmation allows the local police officers to search a house’s yard only, then every search outside the yard’s boundaries is not allowed, and evidence detected from outside these boundaries cannot be used against the potential defendant in court.

Numerous are the cases regarding the Fourth Amendment’s privacy rights. In one of the most recent cases regarding the Fourth Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a certiorari to the Illinois Supreme Court with the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion to be taken into consideration. In Illinois v. Caballes, the U.S. Supreme Court held that there is no issue of privacy when it comes to illegal acts such as the possession of contraband. The defendant had been arrested by an Illinois State Trooper for the possession of marijuana after having been stopped by the latter for speeding, not for searching for marijuana. The revelation came after the State Trooper had reported to a dispatcher, a colleague of his, to have stopped someone for speeding after which he went to the scene with a drug-detection dog. That dog sniffed the defendant’s trunk and warned on it.

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Filed under Civil Rights and Liberties, The Law

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