Fourth Amendment

This page focuses on various aspects of the 4th Amendment.

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizure, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause.”  – Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution 


Searches and Seizures

Search: A search occurs when there is an intrusion to your body or property

Seizure: A seizure occurs when an officer restrains your movement by physical force or showing of authority.



Reasonable is a fluid term that is used throughout the law.  Lawyers use this concept to make their arguments.  In order to determine if something is reasonable, you must look at all of the facts surrounding the situation.  Paying attention to how you personally understand the situation, but also looking at how someone on the outside looking in would understand the situation.


Probable Cause

Searches or seizures are generally only reasonable when probable cause is present. Probable cause looks at the facts and circumstances surrounding the situation.  When the facts and circumstances lead a reasonable person to believe a crime has been committed.  A search or seizure that takes place without a warrant/probable cause is unreasonable at the outset.  There are some exceptions to this rule which citizens should be aware of.  FourFiveSix focuses on the consent exception to the probable cause rule.  You will find additional information on our site related to other exceptions to the probable cause rule such as stop and frisk and the automobile exceptions.

Consent is an approval that is knowingly and voluntarily made.  Officers often ask drivers to do a particular action such as, “do you mind stepping out of the car?” or “can I see your license, registration and insurance?”  These are questions that lead to answers that are knowingly and voluntarily made.  Officers phrase statements in that way to prevent ordering you to do an action.   Commanding you to do an action has different implications.  If the offer is ordering you to do something, then you must be suspected of engaging in criminal conduct in which you are armed and dangerous or you may be under arrest.  Whatever the situation is, ordering a person to do something is different than asking them to do the similar action.   Ultimately, when you do the action after it is asked, you have consented.


Related Articles:

  1.  Arizona-  Arizona v. Primous (Reasonable Suspicion) 5.28.17 pdf (2) (Ariz. 2017).