The 4th Amendment and You

Today was the penultimate day for my Intro to American Government class, and as always on this day, I covered Civil Liberties.  Class discussion of the 4th Amendment– a damn fine amendment– is always fascinating and depressing as every semester I am guaranteed to hear more than one story from students about having their 4th amendment rights egregiously violated.  In short, the 4th amendment protects citizens from “unreasonable search and seizure.”  The absence of this amendment would mean a police state, where police are free to search anyone at anytime based only on their own vague suspicions.  Sadly, it sounds like police officers do this far too often despite the Constitutional prohibition.  The problem for citizens is that if you are unconstitutionally searched and then charged with a crime, you are still out months of stress and anguish and thousands in legal fees before you can finally get a court to void the unconstitutional actions of the police officer.  One thing I have learned for sure is that police officers do not like hearing from college students that they know their rights.  That's pretty much a one-way ticket to jail.  Generally speaking, I am grateful for the good job most police officers do protecting the public, but it is pretty darn clear that many of them let that power go to their truly incredible power over individual liberty go to their head and abuse that power.  Something tells me there's not nearly as much oversight of this as there should be.  

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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