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Free Should Legal Requirements for Obtaining a Search Warrant Be Changed Essay Sample

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Introduction

To start with, it should be clarified that the core purpose of the current study is to investigate the legal regulations concerning search warrants. In this connection, the research question needs to be formulated as follows: Should legal requirements for obtaining a search warrant be changed?

In order to construct a comprehensive answer to the aforesaid research question, a wide range of objectives must be achieved. Thus, the research objectives should be determined as follows:

  • To examine the background material that concerns the issue of search warrants.
  •  To review the most relevant laws and Supreme Court Cases.
  • To evaluate the regulatory capacity of law concerning the issuing of search warrants.
  • To ascertain whether the existent legal requirements for obtaining a search warrant are sufficient and prudent.
  • To discuss the results of the study.
  • To make appropriate recommendations and suggestions in the framework of the research question.

The following study consists of several reciprocal parts. The first part contains the background information about the Fourth Amendment, its provisions, and the history of implementation. The second part is the literature review. The reviewed literature includes Supreme Court landmark cases concerning the issue of warrantless searches and seizures. The core purpose of the literature review is to determine the most fundamental peculiarities of the warrant laws. To continue, the next part incorporates the discussion of the obtained findings. The final part of the study is conceived to combine the suggestions, generalizations and conclusions. Also, the present investigations are going to be conducted with the help of analysis, synthesis and comparison.

Background

Above all things, it might be relevant to note that the most significant legal provisions concerning the issue of search warrants can be found within the text of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. According to the Amendment, each person is entitled to be secure in his or her persons, residence, effects, and papers, against unsubstantiated searches and seizures (The Fourth Amendment, 1791). Moreover, a mental note should be made that the Fourth Amendment prescribes that either a search or a seizure must be conducted only if a specified warrant is issued.

Additionally, it should be taken into consideration that the legal requirements for the warrant are outlined in the Amendment as well. Firstly, a search warrant must be delivered only “upon probable cause”. Secondly, it is required that the warrant is supported either by Oath or affirmation. Thirdly, the Fourth Amendment emphasizes that the search warrant must contain a particular description of the place to be searched. Fourthly, distinct and comprehensive characteristics of the persons or things to be seized must be expressed in the warrant.

In view of the above, it is possible to notice that the Fourth Amendment specifies only the most general and significant requirements for the search warrant. However, the case law is conceived to extend the apprehension of the already existent Constitutional prerequisites to a search. Before explicating the regulative peculiarities of the case law, a historical background of the Fourth Amendment needs to be sketched out. In this connection, it should be ascertained that the Fourth Amendment being ratified in 1791 has not been conceived as an obstacle on the road towards the unrestricted collection of information in criminal investigations (Galiano, 2011, p. 40).

However, the Amendment has been successfully applied against the unlawful searches and seizures during the 19th century. According to Galiano’s considerations, the first prominent Supreme Court decision involving the Fourth Amendment is made in Boyd v. United States case. The ruling in the aforesaid 1886 case has demonstrated radical changes in the U.S. criminal justice system, which has been sustained by illegal searches and seizures.

Therefore, Boyd v. United States case manifests the lack of the protection of civil rights in the 19th century. In the context of the case, it should be briefly clarified that the government has taken Boyd to court, demanding from him “the lucrative contract” (Galiano, 2011, p. 26). After all, Boyd has disclosed his invoices due to the judge’s order. The demanded documents have designed the basis of the conviction.

Being unsatisfied with such actions, Boyd has appealed the decision to the Supreme Court substantiating his arguments with the provisions of the Fourth Amendment regarding the right to be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures (Galiano, 2011, p. 26). Additionally, Boyd has supported his appeal with the implications of the Fifth Amendment with regard to the freedom of self-incrimination.

The Supreme Court has played the crucial role not only in Boyd’s case but also in the U.S. criminal justice itself. The fact is that the violations of both Amendments have been approved by the final ruling in Boyd’s case. Moreover, the Supreme Court has interpreted that the right to be “secure” in a person or residence means that the suspect must never be demanded to transfer the self-incriminating evidence. Taking into account the final ruling in Boyd’s case, it should be generalized that no legal decision should be grounded upon the illegally searched and seized evidence.

Apart from the above, it should be elucidated that the ruling in Boyd’s case has incited the courts to continue elaborating on the issue of reasonable searches and the requirements for issuing a search warrant. Hereinafter, a diligent review of the appropriate legal cases will expand the understanding of the legal requirements for obtaining a search warrant. The following literature review will take into consideration only the landmark cases.

Literature Review

Weeks v. U.S. (1914)

As far as Weeks v. U.S. case is concerned, it might be relevant to note that the significance of the case lies in the creation of a new fundamental interpretation of the Fourth Amendment. The fact is that the Supreme Court has established the exclusionary rule in respect of the evidence that have been gained in violation of the Amendment. Talking about the background of the case, it should be outlined that Fremont Weeks being suspected of gambling, an unlawful use of the U.S. mail system for the purposes of distributing chances in a lottery, has been searched by the state agents at home and lost possession of papers and other personal belongings (Weeks v. United States, 1914).

Later on, the state agents have returned to the dwelling of Fremont Weeks with a U.S. Marshal aiming to seize more evidence. During the illegal entering of Fremont Weeks’ residence, the owner of the dwelling has been apprehended and the house has been searched without any proper and reasonable warrant. Furthermore, Weeks’ house has been searched by the U.S. Marshal for the second time. As the result, several papers and personal belongings have been unlawfully seized as evidence. 

In view of the above, it should be elucidated that the U.S. Marshal has entered the residence of Weeks without any warrant. The aforementioned action has augmented the previously made violations of the Fourth Amendment. The motives to such violations may be explicated by analyzing the American judicial system of 1914. At that time, the regulations and proceedings determining the applicability of evidence in the court have been grounded on the English common law. Whereas, the case law has prescribed nothing about the ways of securing evidence, while emphasizing exclusively the permissibility of the proof in the court.

As the foregoing discussion must suggest, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided several earlier cases in favor of illegal searches and seizures and in defiance of the Fourth Amendment. However, the landmark case of Weeks v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court has for the first time acknowledged that the provisions of the Fourth Amendment are directed against unsubstantiated searches and seizures in courts of justice (Weeks v. United States, 1914).

All things considered, it should be generalized that the exclusionary rule being established in Weeks v. United States case implies that a warrantless search for or seizure of evidence violates the defendant’s constitutional rights, and the unlawfully collected evidence should not be admissible for a criminal prosecution in a court of justice.

Additionally, a mental note should be made that the exclusionary rule embodies the features of a preventive instrument, which must be implemented with the intention to protect individuals from the abusive practices of searches and seizures. The regulative essence of the ruling in Weeks v. United States case consists in the fact that the ruling stringently follows the prescriptions of the Fourth Amendment extending the regulative effects of the U.S. Constitution.

Similarly, it is feasible to notice that the exclusionary rule of Weeks v. United States case is regarded as an effective remedy for illegally obtained evidence. The exclusionary rule as a remedy offers a technical defense without necessary existence of criminal consequences.

In the final analysis, it should be detected that the ruling in Weeks v. United States case explicates legal requirements for obtaining a search warrant. In fact, the exclusionary rule requires from law enforcement agencies to acquire a lawful warrant according to the Fourth Amendment in order to guarantee the permissibility of the collected evidence before judges. Also, the legal requirements for obtaining a search warrant are not directly discussed in Weeks v. United States case. However, it is possible to make an indirect presupposition that all evidence retrieved by unconstitutional means is deemed inadmissible in the court, so that a warrant may be issued for a search only if evidence is going to be collected by constitutional means.    

Mapp v. Ohio (1961)

To continue, it should be ascertained that the legal requirements adopted by the previous two cases - Boyd v. United States and Weeks v. United States - concern exclusively legal proceedings in the federal courts. However, Mapp v. Ohio case is a landmark legal criminal case that regards the situation when the unlawfully conducted searches and seizures secure the evidence for state courts.

To explain it briefly, in Mapp v. Ohio case the judiciary deals with the situation when Dollree Mapp and her daughter have been suspecting in sheltering a bombing fugitive. Therefore, the police have visited Mapp’s residence with the purpose to collect relevant evidence and find the fugitive (Mapp v. Ohio, 1961). After being refused to give them entry, the police have forcefully penetrated into Mapp’s dwellings and conducted a warrantless search. In the basement, the officers have found and seized a small collection of pornographic material. The aforesaid materials have been represented as evidence in the following trial against Mapp for the violation of an Ohio law which bans the possession of obscene material. However, no fugitive has been found in Mapp’s residence.

Taking into consideration the aforementioned legal case, it should be ascertained that all three state courts of Ohio - the Court of Common Pleas of Cuyahoga County, the Ohio Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Ohio - have decided that the collected evidence is both admissible and sufficient to find Mapp guilty in retaining the obscene material. Also, no violation of the Fourth Amendment has been detected in the actions of the law enforcement agents. The most noticeable motivation of the state courts lies in the fact that the evidence has been peacefully collected from the trunk and not forcefully retrieved from the person.

In the context of the case, it might be appropriate to note that the provisions of the Fourth Amendment are very general and obscure without precise instructions on how the evidence extracted due to unreasonable searches and seizures may be used by the governmental agencies. Taking into account the previously discussed exclusionary rule, it should be clarified that the state courts have been unwilling to follow the prescriptions of the aforesaid Constitutional principle substantiating their reluctance with the principle’s applicability to federal courts only.

In the final analysis, Mapp has appealed to the Supreme Court of the USA. Thus, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided the case in favor of Mapp establishing a new precedent. In defiance of the arguments expressed by the state courts, the Supreme Court of the U.S. has found that, in Mapp’s case, the Fourth Amendment needs to be applied in conjunction with other Constitutional provisions including the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. The key arguments of the U.S. Supreme Court are the following:

  1. In Boyd v. United States case, the court has clearly construed that the doctrines of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments must be applied to any sort of invasion on behalf of the government towards the sanctity of a person’s home (Mapp v. Ohio, 1961). Furthermore, the Court explicates that the matter of invasion consists not only in the breaking of the person’s doors and “rummaging of the drawers” but also in encroaching on the indefeasible right of personal security, private property and personal liberty. Additionally, a forcible extortion of the private papers and materials should be deemed a condemned offense as well.
  2. Moreover, the Supreme Court of the United States has emphasized that the constitutional prescriptions of the personal security and the security of property embodies liberal implications and, therefore, the courts are required to be vigilant for any stealthy infringement on the constitutional rights of the citizens.
  3. Besides, the Court has found that the toleration of the unlawful seizure and use of letters and private documents as evidence against a person accused of an offense will inevitably nullify the value of the Fourth Amendment making it unworthy and useless (Mapp v. Ohio, 1961).
  4. In like manner, the US Supreme Court has supplemented its previous arguments with the findings that, “conviction be means of unlawful seizures and enforced confessions...should find no sanction in the judgments of the courts”, and that such evidence “shall not be used at all” (Mapp v. Ohio, 1961). The above-mentioned position of the Supreme Court of the United States is very important in understanding the motives of the ruling in the case.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s considerations manifest that the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution must be construed in conjunction with the Fourteenth Amendment in particular. Hence, according to the Court, the right of privacy prescribed by the Fourth Amendment has been declared enforceable against the states by means of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (Mapp v. Ohio, 1961). Thence, the Fourth Amendment is enforceable against the states by the same sanction of exclusion as is applied in respect of the federal government. Likewise, the exclusionary rule is considered by the U.S. Supreme Court applicable to the state criminal proceedings.        

U.S. v. Leon (1984)

United States v. Leon is another landmark Supreme Court case which extends the implications of the Fourth Amendment. Moreover, United States v. Leon case establishes the “good faith” exception to the exclusionary rule. In the context of the case, it might be relevant to ascertain that the police relying on the information gathered due to the surveillance and the informant’s tips have obtained a search warrant for disclosing the evidence in the drug dealers’ residences. Later on, the warrant has been deemed invalid due to the lack of the probable cause for a search warrant (United States v. Leon, 1984). However, the police have upheld the collected evidence representing them as the proofs obtained according to the warrant and implying that they have acted in good faith. 

In this connection, it should be clarified that the adoption of a “good faith” exception is regarded as the most stringent curtailment of the exclusionary rule. In order to grasp the incentives of the court to shorten the applicability of the exclusionary rule, a diligent analysis of the case needs to be conducted. To begin with, the holding of the case is formulated as follows: The exclusionary rule of the Fourth Amendment should not be applied to the prosecution’s case main evidence obtained by law enforcement officers “in reasonable reliance on a search warrant issued by a detached and neutral magistrate but ultimately found to be invalid” (United States v. Leon, 1984).

The aforementioned ruling consists of several coherent parts which must be taken into consideration when talking about the curtailment of the exclusionary rule. Firstly, the prosecutor’s case must be based on the evidence obtained by means of a search. Secondly, the search which results in the collection of evidence must be performed in reasonable reliance on a search warrant. It should be laid a special emphasis on the word “reasonable”, which means that the officers who conduct a search are conscious of the existence of a search warrant and realize what information is expressed in it. Thirdly, the search warrant must be issued by a detached and neutral magistrate who ensures its admissibility. Fourthly, an invalidity of the issued warrant must be ultimately disclosed.  

The motives for the court to decide in favor of the curtailment should be elucidated as follows:

a). The finding of probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant does not preclude that the police officers are obliged to examine whether the affidavit on which the issuance has been grounded is correct.

b). Despite the respondent’s objections that only unreasonably poor trained police officers are capable to believe that there has been probable cause to search his house, the Court has ascertained that the police reliance on the judge's determination of probable cause has been objectively reasonable (United States v. Leon, 1984).

c). Also, the Supreme Court has explored that the Fourth Amendment contains no provision restraining the use of evidence gathered in violation of it. Therefore, the Court has concluded that there is no Constitutional obstacle to change the regulative capability of the Amendment. In other words, there have been reasonable grounds for the Court to modify the exclusionary rule in view of the balancing approach to it. Moreover, the aforesaid balancing approach is based on the Court’s evaluation of the costs and benefits of suppressing reliable physical evidence secured by the law enforcement agents who have reasonably relied on warrants (United States v. Leon, 1984). The Court’s evaluation of costs and benefits results in the determination that the aforesaid type of evidence must be admissible in the prosecution’s case in chief because the obscure and nonexistent benefits caused by suppressing evidence in the above-mentioned case can not justify the heavy costs of the exclusion.

d). Apart from the above, the U.S. Supreme Court explicates that the suppression of physical evidence can not be a relevant remedy if the magistrate or judge in issuing a warrant has been misguided by the information in an affidavit (United States v. Leon, 1984).

As the foregoing discussion must suggest, it is very important to notice that, in United States v. Leon case, the Supreme Court have left untouched “the probable cause standard and the various requirements for a valid warrant” (United States, v. Leon, 1984). In this connection, it should be reminded that the question of legal requirements for obtaining a search warrant is the research question of the current study. Thus, the prescriptions of United States v. Leon case guarantee that the requirements of the Fourth Amendment are not altered at all. Nonetheless, they have been construed in some different ways.

Hudson v. Michigan (2006)

Hudson v. Michigan case depicts another situation when the prescriptions of exclusionary rule are abridged. To put it briefly, the case deals with the circumstances when the police officers knock in order to announce their presence and wait a reasonable amount of time before penetrating a private dwelling. In the common law, the aforesaid actions are defined as “the knock-and-announce requirement”. The principle of “knock-and-announce” is very ancient factor, which must be taken into consideration when reviewing the whole constitutionality of a Fourth Amendment search.

According to Wilson v. Arkansas case, the court holds that “a search or seizure of a dwelling might be constitutionally defective if police officers enter without prior announcement” (Wilson v. Arkansas, 1995). Notwithstanding this, it should be ascertained that the ruling in Wilson v. Arkansas case prescribes that policing interests may also designate the reasonableness of an unannounced entry.

In like manner, it should be clarified that in Hudson v. Michigan case the Court investigates the doctrine of knocks and announcements and its relevance to the exclusionary rule. The case operates around the situation when police officers have arrived at the residence of Booker T. Hudson to perform their obligations according to the warrant which has authorized them to conduct a search of Hudson’s house for narcotics and firearms. The officers have cried out “police, search and warrant” and penetrated the dwelling after having waited for “three to five seconds”. After the operation a number of evidence has been secured.

Hereinafter, at the trial for cocaine possession with intent to deliver and possession of a firearms during the commission of a felony, Hudson has contradicted that the violation of the knock-and-announce requirement leads to the violation of his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures according to Wilson v. Arkansas case.

As the result, the majority of judges have decided that the evidence seized in violation of the knock-and-announce doctrine are relevant for the following criminal trial and can not be excluded from the prosecutor’s case only because of the aforesaid violation. Analysis of the aforesaid case demonstrates the correlation between the exclusionary rule and the violation of the knock-and-announce doctrine.

In order to grasp the applicability of the case, the Supreme Court’s motives need to be clarified. Thus, the incentives of the holding in Hudson v. Michigan may be outlined as follows:

1). The Supreme Court has diligently weighted the relation between the social cost and deterrence. In such cases as Hudson v. Michigan there exist many unfavorable factors which must be taken into account, such as the risk of releasing dangerous offenders, inability to eliminate a preventable violence against the officers in one case, and the destruction of evidence in another (Hudson v. Michigan, 2006). All this factors evince that the social cost overwhelms the deterrence. Moreover, the evidence collected after the search may be too important to be simply disregarded.

2). According to the ruling in Hudson v. Michigan (2006), “exclusion may not be premised on the mere fact that a constitutional violation was a “but-for” cause of obtaining evidence”. In fact, the constitutional violation of an illegal manner of entry has not been directed towards the obtaining the evidence. Therefore, it should not be estimated as the violation of the Fourth Amendment itself.

3). Furthermore, it should be differentiated between the exclusionary rule which regards the evidence obtained by a warrantless search and allows citizens to secure their persons, houses, papers, and effects, from the knock-and-announce doctrine, which is not aimed at the right to be secure.

In the final analysis, it should be conceded that Hudson v. Michigan needs to be discussed further in order to better apprehend its rationale. 

Discussion of Findings

After everything has been given due consideration, it seems prudent to critically evaluate the Supreme Court’s reasoning in the aforementioned landmark cases. Main points of the evaluation should be enumerated as follows:

  • Weeks v. United States (1914). The key significance of the case lies in the establishment of the exclusionary rule. It is reasonable to agree with the arguments of the Supreme Court in favor of the exclusionary rule. It is true that the rule has been designed as a remedy against unlawfully collected evidence. Additionally, it should be accentuated on the fact that the Constitution of the United States has been established to protect civil rights and liberties. Therefore, any toleration of either unlawful searches and seizures or the criminal proceedings based on the unlawfully secured evidence will inevitably lead to the formation of an anti-democratic state devoid of constitutional prerogatives.
  • Mapp v. Ohio (1961). As far Mapp’s case is concerned, it should be generalized that the Supreme Court has correctly extended the regulative power of the exclusionary rule to the state courts. It is possible to agree with the judicial reasoning that the Fourth Amendment protects people’s right irrespective of the jurisdiction. It means that not only federal governmental authorities are required to refrain from unlawful searches and seizures but also state agencies must avoid substantiating the prosecutor’s cases with unlawfully obtained evidence. Moreover, it is possible to consent that the peaceful extraction of private papers during a search violates Fourth Amendment's personal rights to be secured both in persons and property. The issue of warrants has been accurately approached in the aforesaid case.
  • United States v. Leon (1984). In the context of the case, it should be clarified that the “good faith exception” to the exclusionary rule has been properly substantiated by the Supreme Court. The fact is that the police must not be responsible for the inquiry into information expressed through an affidavit. It is prudent that the police rely on the magistrate or a judge to determine whether there is probable cause for issuing a search warrant. Besides, when the warrant is issued it is considered that the police reasonably act in good faith according to the prescriptions of the warrant. Therefore, if the order is recognized as invalid, the collected evidence must not be excluded from the prosecutor’s case because the police have known nothing about the lack of probable cause. In this connection, it is possible to agree that sometimes it is more important to uphold the collected evidence than to release a dangerous criminal or destroy valuable proofs.
  • Hudson v. Michigan (2006). Hudson v. Michigan case is the most contradictory because it tends to shorten the regulative capabilities of the exclusionary rule. To be concerned, it seems prudent to agree with the Supreme Court that the violation of the doctrine of knock-and-announce does not directly concerns the violation of the Fourth Amendment right to be secure against unlawful searches and seizures. The fact is that the exclusionary rule should not deal with such type of violations because the incorrect entering into the house does not necessary mean the search and seizure are conducted unlawfully. Also, the exclusion of important evidence gathered after the incorrect entrance may be estimated as a disproportion between the social cost and deterrence.

In view of the above, the legal requirements for obtaining a search warrant should not be changed. Both the Fourth Amendment and the case law comprise the sufficient legal basis for such regulation.

Conclusions

To sum up, it should be emphasized that the research question has been answered comprehensively and completely. The findings of the research illustrate that the legal requirements for obtaining a search warrant are advanced and require no alterations.

Besides, the research objectives have been completely achieved:

  • The background material that concerns the issue of search warrants has been outlined and explained. The framework information facilitates the understanding of the problem.
  •  The most relevant laws and Supreme Court Cases have been reviewed. The reviewed cases supplement the subsistent regulative provisions of the Fourth Amendment.
  • The regulatory capacity of the law concerning the issuing of search warrants has been evaluated. The regulative capacity is often dependent on the exclusions to the general rule.
  • The sufficiency and prudence of the existent legal requirements for obtaining a search warrant have been ascertained.
  • The results of the current study have been discussed.

Apart from the above, it should be make a specific recommendation with regard to the further development of the search warrant laws. In this connection, it seems relevant to suggest to unify all the legal requirements concerning the issue of searches and seizures and to prescribe them in a single legal act in order to eliminate existent gaps and potential limitations of the practice. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution must be put on the basis of such act.

It is possible to arrive at a conclusion that the legal requirements to obtaining a search warrant are comprehensive and advanced; however, they are disseminated in a wide range of different legal documents. In order to make the regulation more coherent and coordinated. 

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