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Search and Seizure in Schools

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An Overview of the Fourth Amendment
US Constitution
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Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. The Fourth Amendment states, “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.”

The purpose of the Fourth Amendment is to uphold the privacy and security of individual persons against subjective invasions by the government and its officials. When the government violates an individual’s “expectation of privacy”, then an unlawful search has occurred. An individual’s “expectation of privacy” can be defined as whether the individual expects their actions will be free from government intrusion.

The Fourth Amendment requires that searches meet a “reasonableness standard.” Reasonableness can weighted on the circumstances surrounding the search and by measuring the search’s overall intrusive nature against the legitimate interests of the government. A search will be unreasonable any time the government cannot prove that it was necessary. The government must show that there was “probable cause” for a search to be deemed “Constitutional”.

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