The United States Supreme Court Decisions

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As a student or professional in the criminal justice field, one will undoubtedly cross paths with the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. 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. (U.S. Const. amend. IV) The source of many United States Supreme Court decisions, these often debated words seek to protect citizens against abuses of power by the government. Although the intent of these few words are clear, the debate stems from the attempts to interpret the intent of the framers. Three major interpretations have been developed from the debates surrounding the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. These interpretations are the warrant approach, the reasonableness approach and the special needs approach. We will begin by discussing the warrant approach which is also the traditional approach to interpret the Fourth Amendment. The warrant approach focused on limiting valid searches to those done with a warrant based on probable cause (Bacigal, 1979). This meant that in order for a search to be valid under the Fourth Amendment there had to be judicial approval in advance of the search except when justified by absolute necessity (Stelzner, 1979). Proponents of this approach
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