Topic: Constitutional Limitations Essay
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4 Aug 2020 03:52
Briefly explain one of the Constitutional limitations on American criminal law. What is the origin of this limitation and give some examples of how has it been refined over time by the Supreme Court?
Constitutional limitations are enforced to prove that no group or individual is above the law, not even the government. There is a need to balance the powers and authority of government agencies for the sake of equality. The Fourth Amendment is an example of a constitutional limitation as it protects the privacy of Americans. According to the Constitution, the Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable search and seizure of persons, papers, and properties. An officer of the law has to present a warrant that allows them to search for evidence and possess it when creating a case against a suspect. This limitation on American criminal law ensures that every American’s privacy is respected regardless of the circumstances. The constitution has been shaped for centuries to offer the United States’ people the rights they deserve while at the same time enabling the law enforcement sector to act without violation of those rights
The Fourth Amendment, like most Bill of rights, has its origins in the late seventeenth century. Three English cases motivated the enactment of the law: Wilkes v. Wood, Entick v. Carrington, and the Writs of Assistance Case. All these cases involved government officials issuing warrants against citizens that allowed police officers to search for any place within their residence for certain evidence. Wilkes and Entick won their cases, but the Writs of Assistance saw the complainants lose. However, the Writs of Assistance Case had a strong message on individual privacy, which motivated the public to demand such rights. These three cases are said to be the Fourth Amendment’s foundation, as they provided three principles. The government should provide substantial justification for a warrant. Property searches should not go beyond their justification. The government should not use blanket warrants to evade the other two principles (Carmen and Hemmens, 2016). The fourth amendment would then be added to the U.S. Constitution as a Bill of Rights in 1791.
Over time, the Supreme Court has refined the law by introducing clauses that balance law enforcement’s power and authority. Two examples include the exclusionary rule, as seen in Mapp v. Ohio (1961) and the Consent Once Removed Doctrine. The Supreme Court introduced the exclusionary rule to define standards that officers would follow to ensure their evidence would remain admissible. The exclusionary rule also allowed defendants to invoke a ruling if they are sentenced using evidence obtained illegally. This rule allowed for a balance between citizens and law enforcement officers when practicing criminal law. However, other refined aspects give the government the upper hand. The Consent Once Removed Doctrine (CORD) allows undercover officers to search and arrest individuals without a warrant (Khalil, 2011). They need to prove that their operations are reasonable enough to be considered outside the bounds of the Fourth Amendment purview.
In conclusion, the Fourth Amendment serves as a constitutional limitation on criminal law to preserve Americans’ privacy rights. Every citizen should feel free within their own space without unreasonable intrusion from law enforcement officers. Since the seventeenth century, limitations to search, seizure, and arrests have been redefined to balance the law and its citizens. The Supreme Court has ensured that the Fourth Amendment limitation shapes how police officers gather evidence and arrest suspects while maintaining criminal law credibility. It is essential to protect the citizens’ rights through these limitations on government agencies because unregulated power may oppress the people of America. Overall, the Fourth Amendment serves to prove that nobody or group is above the law.
Del Carmen, R. V., & Hemmens, C. (2016). Criminal procedure: Law and Practice. Cengage Learning
Khalil, A. A. (2011). Knock, Knock-Who’s There: Undercover Officers, Police Informants, and the Consent Once Removed Doctrine. Seton Hall L. Rev., 41, 1569.
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