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Briefcase: The Fourth Amendment

Guest, Dean Leonard Baynes


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The Bill of Rights has guaranteed our freedoms and rights for over 200 years. In this regular series, Dean Leonard Baynes with the University of Houston Law Center looks at how they relate to society today.

"Why can't police officers – without probable cause – remove letters from your mailbox, look inside your wallet, or demand entry into your home? The answer is the fourth amendment which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures of property and individuals."

"Evidence found through an unreasonable search and seizure may be excluded from trial. This is known as the exclusionary rule, designed to deter police misconduct."

"Before any evidence can be excluded, a court must determine two factors: first, the government must have directed or conducted the search or seizure. Second, there must be a ‘reasonable expectation of privacy.' The supreme court held that ‘[w]hat a person knowingly exposes to the public even in his own home or office is not subject to fourth amendment protection...' but what he treats as private, even in a public area, may be constitutionally protected."