Fourth Amendment Primer

AuthorDeja Vishny
CHAPTER 3: Fourth Amendment Primer
I. Introduction
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
      
place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Const. Amend. IV.
The Fourth Amendment: the bulwark of American liberty; a bedrock protecting Americans against governmental
overreaching; a wall that stands between the average citizen and unlawful police intrusion. Hah! These days the
Fourth Amendment is more like a piece of Swiss cheese, a punctured barricade, a cracked foundation. Fourth
Amendment jurisprudence is all about the exceptions, not the rule. The Supreme Court has done an almost complete
about-face from its pronouncement in Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 655 (1961), that “all evidence obtained by
searches and seizures in violation of the Constitution is, by that same authority, inadmissible in a state court,” to its
         
exclusionary rule generates ‘substantial social costs.’” Hudson v. Michigan, 547 U.S. 586,591 (2006).
Yet, despite the numerous exemptions from the general rule, Fourth Amendment litigation is an essential tool for
are some recent bright spots, such as Riley v. California, 134 S.Ct. 2473 (2014), where the court unanimously ruled
that police may not conduct a warrantless search of a cell phone incident to an arrest; and Florida v. Jardines, 133
      
porch of a home.
For the typical practitioner, suppression motions that are litigated will never make it to an appellate reporter. Every
day suppression motions are granted, which are never appealed. These victories frequently lead to case dismissals or,
at the least, better plea offers. There’s nothing like winning a suppression motion to put a little spring in your step,
not to mention having happy clients.
The next set of chapters in this book [Chapters 4-x] will delve deep into Fourth Amendment litigation, with case
Supreme Court has interpreted the Fourth Amendment, to help you spot issues for litigation in your cases.
II. Core Principles
A. Exclusionary Rule
§3:01 Illegally Obtained Evidence is Inadmissible
When searches and seizures violate the Fourth Amendment, the evidence is to be excluded from court proceedings.
Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383 (1914). In Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961), the court ruled the Fourth
Amendment applies to the states via the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of due process.
§3:02 Fruit of the Poisonous Tree Doctrine
Evidence that is obtained or derived as a result of the unlawful search or seizure is excluded as the “fruit of the
poisonous tree.” Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471 (1963). The tainted evidence can be tangible physical
            
defendant. United States v. Crews, 445 U.S. 463 (1980). .

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