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Fourth Amendment

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Our founding fathers in their quest to set forth protections of citizens enacted the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. (GPOaccess.gov/constitution) The purpose behind this amendment is the people have the right “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures”. At face value you may believe that this amendment provides you with total protection from an illegal search and seizure. In this paper I will demonstrate that the Fourth Amendment does not cover searches that occur in open fields or for items that are observed in plain view.

In order to form an opinion on the constitutionality of a warrantless search you first need to determine what an open field is and what would be considered private property. This is known as the Open Fields Doctrine. (Wetterer, 1998) Items in open fields are not protected by the Fourth Amendment so they can be seized by an officer without a warrant or probable cause. Open fields do not fall within any of these categories. What does “open fields” exactly mean? Open fields encompass any open, undeveloped property that is not intimately used for dwelling (including curtilage) or business. The main residence on a piece of land, any outbuildings closely connected with and in close proximity to it, and the land immediately surrounding the residence are all considered to be within the curtilage of the land and are areas in which there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. The status of an open field does not change even if a fence secures the property and “no trespassing” signs are erected, Oliver v. United States. (Cuddihy, 2009) In this case the police entered the property of Mr. Oliver and discovered a patch of marijuana being grown. The Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Oliver did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy even though there was a locked...

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