HOW TO PROTECT YOUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS

The 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution gives each of us some of our most valuable rights as U.S. citizens. It specifically gives each of us the right to be secure in our homes. It also protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures. However, because these rights are personal —  only you can assert them. And if you don’t assert them, no one will assert them on your behalf. In fact, you actually waive your rights when you fail to personally assert them. Moreover, with very limited exceptions the government does not have to explain your rights to you before asking you to do something that will waive those rights. Because the 4th Amendment is one of the fundamental underpinnings of individual liberty in our society, a look at its history is informative. The founders of our country generally agreed that all persons had a natural right to be free from government intrusion into their homes. In fact, one of the biggest grievances that led to the American Revolution was the use of “writs of assistance” by the British government. With a “writ of assistance,” the King’s representatives could enter your property with no notice and for no particular reason. In a well known case from that time, Boston lawyer James Otis represented a group of merchants who sued the British government claiming that the use of writs of assistance against was unjust. While Mr. Otis lost the case, his argument condemning writs of assistance and general search warrants was considered by many (including John Adams who was present in the courtroom) to be one of the sparks...

CELL PHONES PROTECTED FROM WARRANTLESS SEARCHES

The Supreme Court of the United States in a unanimous decision ruled that the police may not search your cell phone without a warrant simply because you have been arrested. FACTS The decision involved two separate cases. In the first case David Riley was stopped by a police officer for driving with an expired tag. During the stop the officer learned that Riley’s license had been suspended and the car was impounded. An inventory search of the car was then conducted and Riley was arrested for possession of concealed and loaded firearms. During the search of Riley incident to his arrest, his “smart pho, Riley was charged with additional crimes. Prior to trial Riey’s attorney moved to suppress all evidence that the police had obtained from his cell phone. In the second case, an officer performing routine surveillance saw Brima Wurie make a drug sale from a car. Wurie was arrested. At the police station her two cell phones were taken. The officers noticed that one of the phones was repeatedly receiving calls from a particular number. They used the an online directory to trace the number to an apartment where after executing a warrant crack cocaine and other drug related items were found. The lawyer for Wurie moved to suppress the evidence arguing that it was the fruit of an unconstitutional search of the cell phone. OPINION The Fourth Amendment provides that people have the right to be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures. Generally for a search to be reasonable, a warrant is required. Without a warrant a search is only reasonable if it falls within a...