Criminal Procedure: the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution is included in the Bill of Rights. It protects people against “unreasonable searches and seizures and generally requires the government to obtain a warrant, issued by a judge, upon showing of reasonable, before one’s person, home, or property can be searched” (Lippman, 2013, p. 60). This amendment was made under the influence of the events that the American colonies had to endure because of the British rule. People and their properties were often searched, and they treated such actions as the abuse.

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Thus, the government claims that the search warrant is obligatory if a person or a home is to be searched. However, this presumption does not refer to all cases. There are some exceptions to it. Border searches are one of them. Under the doctrine of criminal law, searches and seizures are not prohibited if they take place at international borders.

There is no necessity to take a warrant issued by a judge. The existence of the probable case is also unneeded. This exception was made to protect the country and its citizens from the illegal immigrants who enter the territory of the United States. There are several reasons for such actions.

A probable case is a reasonable suspicion of some violation or crime based on the particular facts. It is required for the seizures that take place without the border area. However, it is not needed if the person entered the country because the safety of the citizens is of greater value than the extreme comfort and privacy of their guests. There is a possibility that a person who does not want to be legally accepted is engaged in the smuggling of drugs.

After the 11/09 the government enhanced the protection of the country, so such searches are also made to prevent terrorism. Consequently, routine searches aimed at the crime prevention and protection of the United States do not require a warrant and probable cause. It is even claimed that the fact that one is entering the country from outside is enough to believe the suspicion to be reasonable. Still, these routine searches are applicable at an airport, for example.

Non-routine border searches are uncommon. They include intrusive searches, such as “strip and body-cavity searches or involuntary x-rays” (Lippman, 2013, p. 242). Needless to say that such actions assault the person’s dignity that is why they can be present only if there is a solid reason for them.

According to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, routine border searches differ from non-routine ones by the absence of embarrassment or offend caused by the intrusion on privacy. Non-routine searches are to be grounded. Three primary reasons can involve this kind of searches. The first one is the use of force. If a person acts inappropriately and violently, pushes or attacks others, one is likely to be arrested and searched.

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If the individual has a weapon and threatens others, he/she puts them in a dangerous situation, which also allows treating the issue as a non-routine one. The last reason is the presence of fear. If people are afraid of the individual or the individual looks concussed, a non-routine search is likely to be performed. Such things cannot be predicted, and they happen on the spur of the moment that is why the warrant is not obligatory in such cases.


Lippman, M. (2013). Criminal procedure. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

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