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The main purpose of the current research paper is to examine some of the Amendments to the US Constitution which protect various civil liberties of the individual accused of a criminal act. The Amendments that are chosen for the evaluation include the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments. Also, the present research is going to be conducted in accordance with a thesis statement. Thus, the thesis statement must be formulated as follows: The Amendments to the US Constitution are fairly significant tools that both protect individuals against unlawful policies of the state and augment the civil liberties which are prescribed by the Constitution itself. The core objectives of the following study are to investigate the Amendments’ regulative power and to recommend on how to improve the investigations that are practiced by the law enforcement agencies.
Explanatory analysis of the Amendments to the US Constitution
As far as the First Amendment to the US Constitution is concerned, it should be outlined that the regulative provisions of the Amendment restrain Congress from enacting the statutes concerning an establishment of religion, or forbidding as well as shortening the extents of such liberties as the freedom of speech, of the press, the right to peaceful congregations, and to petition the Government for a correction of injustices (First Amendment, 1791). The fact is that the aforementioned Amendment can protect individuals against unlawful allegations. For instance, a person may be accused of the seditious libel or a press reporter may be charged of the defamation in respect of public officials. In this connection, the First Amendment becomes a shield protecting the freedom of press and the freedom of speech, in particular.
The most noticeable case that protects the aforesaid freedoms and ensures the regulative power of the First Amendment is New York Times Co. v. Sullivan case. According to the case, a public official blaming a person for the defamation is required to prove that the statement in question has been expressed with “actual malice” (New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 1964). In other words, the First Amendment allows individuals to realize their freedom to speech in a manner they like. Also, the Amendment protects the citizens from the demand of substantiating their statements with sufficient evidence. Contrariwise, the accuser is personally required to prove that the malicious defamation has taken place.
In like manner, it should be conceded that the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution also protects civil rights and liberties in criminal cases. According to the Amendment, each person is entitled to be secure in his or her person, house, effects and papers against unsubstantiated searches and seizures (The Fourth Amendment, 1791). The exclusive document which makes a search or a seizure legal is a warrant. Also, the Amendment prescribes the requirements for warrants. In view of the above, it should be ascertained that the right to be secure corresponds with the right to privacy. Warrantless searches and seizures are prohibited by the Fourth Amendment.
Thus, in order to conduct a lawful search and seizure the law enforcement agent must acquire the warrant, a document which is supported by Oath or affirmation and contains the description of the place to be searched as well as the things or persons to be seized (The Fourth Amendment, 1791). The relevant case law offers more comprehensive explication of the Amendment. Thus, Weeks v. United States case provides the exclusionary rule that the evidence that is extracted by unconstitutional methods should be deemed inadmissible in the court of justice and cannot be used as a constituent of the prosecution’s case (Weeks v. United States, 1914).
Apart from the above, it might be relevant to note that the Fourth Amendment requires from the police to exercise searches and seizures only if a probable cause exists. In this connection, it should be elucidated that the term “probable cause” means a reasonable cause to believe that the suspect has committed a particular documented felony. In addition, the officer’s actions towards searching and seizing may be justified if the officer personally witnesses the suspect committing an offence. For instance, the police are entitled to stop and frisk a person if the gun is noticeable under the suspect’s shirt. To sum up, it is possible to assert that the Fourth Amendment protects people from the abusive behaviors of law enforcement agents who may infringe on the rights to privacy and safety.
As far as the next amendment is concerned, it should be stated that the Fifth Amendment is the most ubiquitous constituent of the Bill of Rights concerning the rights of person in criminal legal proceedings. The text of the Amendment consists of several reciprocal regulations which protect individuals from answering for a capital or an infamous crime unless before a Grand Jury.
Also, the Amendment prohibits from being twice liable for the same offence or from being a witness against himself. Besides, the provisions of the Fifth Amendment allow depriving a person of life, liberty, or property only by means of a proper process of law. Finally, the private property must not be seized for public use without just compensation according to the Fifth Amendment (Fifth Amendment, 1791).
In view of the above, it should be acknowledged that the regulative influence of the Amendment extends to every individual irrespective of his or her social status or professional occupation. The significance of the Fifth Amendment consists in the fact that it creates the basis for democratic criminal proceedings and protects people against possible abuses of the prosecutor and judiciary.
Besides, it should be taken into consideration that the case law facilitates the understanding of the Fifth Amendment and elaborates on its provisions. Thus, in “Ex Parte Bain” case the Supreme Court has ruled that the indictment can not be altered by the prosecution when it has already been filled with the court (Ex Parte Bain, 1887). The only probable way to change the indictment is to resubmit the whole case to the grand jury.
After everything has been given due consideration, it should be generalized that the police and other law enforcement agencies are required to uphold civil rights and liberties while interrogating and frisking the suspects. The civil rights and freedoms that need to be asserted during searches, seizures and interrogations include the following: the right to privacy, the right to be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures, the right not to witness against himself etc.
The following recommendations must be taken into consideration by the police during the fulfillment of their competence:
- The law enforcement agencies must be aware of the fact that not all questions are permissible during the interrogation. According to People v. De Bour case, the police may require information from a person only if the demand is substantiated with an objective and credible reason (People v. De Bour, 1976).
- Also, the police must remember that either a search or a seizure is lawful only if conducted due to a probable cause in conjunction with a reasonable suspicion. The notion of reasonable suspicion has been elaborated in Terry v. Ohio case. It means that every search and seizure is legal only if there is set of uncontroversial facts taken together with the rational inferences from the aforesaid facts (Terry v. Ohio, 1968).
In the final analysis, it is possible to draw a conclusion that the Amendments to the US Constitution are very important instruments in protecting the persons against abuses of governmental agencies and augmenting their Constitutional civil rights and liberties. Furthermore, it should be elucidated that the thesis statement has been followed and verified as true. Also, the research objectives have been achieved completely.