The aim of responsible stewardship is to ensure that the environment is safe for future generations. The aim of the proposal is to introduce new laws and regulations in privacy sphere. It is recognized that the Fourth Amendment was intended to protect both property and privacy. At the same time it did not think the protection of property was coextensive with the law of trespass. Police could trespass on some private property, an open field for example, without violating the Fourth Amendment. Police could not trespass and violate the Fourth Amendment, however, such as by putting on a wiretap. The amendment protected some property interests and some privacy interests but not others.
The new laws should accept the position that people should not expect their backyards to be free from police observation from the air, for example, or their garbage to be free from police inspection. People should not expect that a field surrounded by fences and a “do not trespass” sign will be free from random police investigation. As with other areas of constitutional law, the Court used a combination of balancing and line drawing to spell out the dictates of the Fourth Amendment. The Court balanced the property and privacy rights of the people against the legitimate needs of law enforcement (Penney, 2007). The Court divided the world into three areas: those that could only be searched with a warrant (except in emergencies); those that could be searched or seized with probable cause (with some exceptions); and those that could be searched without either probable cause or a warrant. The question of when police need a warrant to search was very difficult for the Court. The Court began with the proposition that the police would usually need a warrant, and then over the years created so many exceptions that they seemed to swallow the rule. Today police generally only need a warrant if they wish to enter a private building, which means a home, including a hotel room, or the private area of a business. Areas open to the public, such as an open field or the showroom of a business, are not protected by the amendment (Donohue, 2006).
The new changes in laws should recognize that seizing and searching people walking around in public places require a warrant, but in most cases police could only do so if they had probable cause. The extent to which police could seize and search automobiles caused much confusion as the Court struggled to come up with a rule that provided the right balance between the rights of individuals and the needs of modern law enforcement. Ultimately, the Court decided that a warrant would not be required before searching or seizing automobiles, or the containers found in automobiles (Penney, 2007). The laws will admit that before a warrant can be issued or before police may search in most situations, probable cause is required. The concept of what exactly constitutes probable cause has changed over time. Historical examples suggest that the 1920s the fact that notorious bootleggers were driving a car from Detroit to Grand Rapids was enough to constitute probable cause. By the 1960s it was clear that more would be required before police could stop and search people on the open road. Generally police would need some reason to think this particular car contained contraband or evidence other than the fact that its drivers were generally known to be bad people. One of the problems that plagued police was the fluid nature of the probable cause concept. The Court tried to make this concept clearer by deciding concrete cases spelling out what was enough “cause” to make it “probable” that the car or person deserved to be searched or seized in each particular case (Donohue, 2006).
Another difficult question for the law is the extent to which police could be forced to reveal the name of informants who provided them with information. The Supreme Court accepts the notion that if police are forced to reveal the identity of their informants that would be the end of informants and much useful information would no longer be available to aid law enforcement. This makes the whole process of deciding whether or not police actually had probable cause in concrete situations very difficult (Penney, 2007). Often probable cause consisted of information from a secret informant. It becomes almost impossible to know whether the police really had received such information or were making it up to justify their suspicions. Ultimately the Court has to accept the fact that there are limits to the amount of oversight the Court can have in these situations. It is up to states and cities to hire and train police officers who will respect the law and the Constitution they are sworn to uphold. It is up to judges at all levels to exercise their constitutional mandate to review police requests for warrants and not simply provide a rubber stamp whenever police have a suspicion (Donohue, 2006).
In new laws, changes should be applied to such notion as “unreasonable” behavior on the part of government officials and only the Supreme Court, deciding concrete cases, can declare what is and what is not reasonable (Whitman, 2004). Rather, it was the specter of customs agents searching homes and warehouses without any justification that drove them to revolution. The colonists objected to having the privacy of their homes invaded by soldiers they were ordered to house and feed. Many invasions of privacy and dignity by government officials led to the shot heard round the world. It would be the specter of police searching the “sacred precincts of marital bedrooms for telltale signs of the use of contraceptives” that would lead Justice Douglas and the other justices to decide that the Bill of Rights protects the more general right of privacy (Whitman, 2004).
In sum, new legal environment is important for future generations of people. While some of the rules may seem silly to some people, they are not confusing. From searching automobiles to backpacks to houses, mistakes can no longer be laid at the door of the Supreme Court. Police officers who violate the rules have only themselves to blame if a guilty person goes free because constitutional rights were violated. The same is true of the more general right to privacy. While other areas may fall under its protection, we do know that people in the United States have the right to decide who they will marry, whether or not they will have children, and whether or not their children will attend private school. Women do have a right to control their own bodies, including the right to decide to have an abortion, limited only by the right states enjoy to regulate the abortion process to serve legitimate governmental goals. At the same time the Supreme Court’s interpretations of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution apply to everyone and have provided guidance as to how similar provisions in state constitutions should be interpreted. It is the Fourth Amendment that protects everyone from unreasonable searches and seizures and it is the Bill of Rights that protects everyone’s general right to privacy, a right that has proved to be both comprehensive and controversial. The majority of justices thought that requiring a search warrant every time police wished to search someone in a public place would make law enforcement almost impossible. In their opinion, requiring police to have probable cause before making a search provided enough protection for the people being searched. The majority also accepts the argument that if the identities of informants are revealed there would be no more informants and law enforcement would become much more difficult.
Donohue, L. K. (2006). Anglo-American Privacy and Surveillance. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 96 (1), 23.
Penney, S., (2007). Reasonable Expectations of Privacy and Novel Search Technologies: An Economic Approach. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 97 (2), 477.
Whitman, J. Q. (2004). The Two Western Cultures of Privacy: Dignity versus Liberty. Yale Law Journal, 113 (1), 43.