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Fourth Amendment and Privacy

Fourth Amendment and Privacy
- Tanvi Goyal, Institute of Law, Nirma University Ahmedabad

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects citizens against government searches and seizures. The Fourth Amendment, however, does not protect you from all searches and seizures; it only protects you from those that are found arbitrary by the court. The balance of two essential interests determines whether a specific form of search is considered reasonable in the eyes of the law.  The infringement of someone\'s Fourth Amendment rights is on one extreme of the scale. On the opposite side of the scale are legitimate government goals such as public safety. The location of the search or seizure determines the extent to which the Fourth Amendment protects an individual.

What Does the Fourth Amendment Protect?

In the context of criminal law, the 4th Amendment\'s "search and seizure" rights include:
•A person\'s physical apprehension or "seizure" by a law enforcement officer, such as a halt or arrest; and
•Police searches of locations and objects where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as his or her person, clothing, handbag, baggage, car, house, apartment, hotel room, and place of work, to mention a few.
Individuals are protected by the Fourth Amendment during searches and detentions, and improperly obtained things cannot be used as evidence in criminal proceedings. The level of protection provided in a given situation is determined by the nature of the detention or arrest, the features of the location searched, and the circumstances of the search.

When does the Fourth Amendment Applies?

It\'s crucial to remember that not every search and seizure examined in state and federal court poses a Fourth Amendment concern. The Fourth Amendment only protects you from searches and seizures carried out by the government or at the direction of the government. Surveillance and investigation by completely private individuals, such as private detectives, suspicious spouses, or nosy neighbours, aren\'t governed by the Fourth Amendment. When the same acts are performed by a law enforcement official or a private individual acting in cooperation with law enforcement, however, Fourth Amendment problems arise.
What if Fourth Amendment Rights Are Violated?
When law enforcement officials violate an individual\'s Fourth Amendment rights and a search or seizure is found illegal, all proofs obtained as a result of the search or seizure will almost definitely be excluded from any criminal prosecution against the person whose rights were infringed. For example:
•An arrest is deemed to be unconstitutional because it was made without reasonable cause or a proper warrant. Any evidence collected illegally, such as a confession, will be excluded from the investigation.
•Because no search warrant was sought and no unique circumstances warranted the search, a police search of a residence is a violation of the homeowner\'s Fourth Amendment rights. In a criminal prosecution, any evidence acquired as a consequence of the search cannot be used against the homeowner.

When the Fourth Amendment Doesn\'t Protect You?

Only if a person has a "legitimate expectation of privacy" in the place or object examined does the Fourth Amendment apply to the search. If not, the amendment provides no protection because there are no privacy problems by definition.
1) Legitimate Expectation of Privacy
Courts often apply a two-part test (created by the United States Supreme Court) to assess whether a defendant had a genuine expectation of privacy in the location or objects examined at the time of the search:
i)Did the individual anticipate some level of privacy?
ii)Is the person\'s expectation objectively realistic, in the sense that it is one that society will accept?
The United States Supreme Court decided in Bond v. United States, 529 U.S. 334 (2000), that a bus passenger had a legitimate expectation of privacy in an opaque carry-on bag positioned in a luggage rack over the rider\'s head. The officers physically exploring the bag\'s exterior for signs of contraband constituted a search subject to Fourth Amendment limitations.

2) Private Security Personnel
In the United States, private security workers have outnumbered police officers three to one at times. As a result, you may encounter a security guard rather than a police officer when shopping in a supermarket or pharmacy, working in an office building, or visiting a friend in a housing complex. The Fourth Amendment does not apply to searches conducted by non-government workers who are not acting on behalf of the government (such as private security guards).
The Fourth Amendment and Privacy 
•Traditionally, Fourth Amendment analysis, required two steps: first, determining if a claim fits within the Amendment\'s scope, and then determining whether the government has met the Amendment\'s protective criteria. 
•The Supreme Court has created a rigorous warrant requirement as the principal way of ensuring that the Amendment\'s protective instructions are carried out by executive branch officials over time.
•Despite this, some judges are deciding to waive the warrant requirement in situations where they find that only "lesser" Fourth Amendment privacy rights have been infringed.

Fourth Amendment in the Digital Era:-

•The Supreme Court\'s judgement in CARPENTER V. UNITED STATES is one of the most important privacy decisions in the digital era, setting a precedent for lower courts to safeguard many different types of sensitive data against unwarranted state intervention.
•Carpenter, a case before the Supreme Court in which the ACLU claimed that information identifying where Timothy Carpenter had travelled with his phone should be made public. Carpenter\'s precise location data was taken from his mobile phone carrier without a warrant by authorities seeking for evidence linking him to the locations of several crimes. Carpenter\'s daily habits were revealed as a result of the data, which included where he slept and attended church. 
•The court determined that the government\'s access to such comprehensive location data allows for "near-perfect monitoring," and that such sensitive information must be protected under the Fourth Amendment. It went on to say that in the digital era, old-school legal norms don\'t always apply.
•In Carpenter, the Supreme Court correctly recognised the importance of courts in ensuring that privacy rights be maintained in the digital era. While the government pushes for unrestricted access to the personal data corporations amass on us, it\'s critical that the courts clarify, as Carpenter did, that we don\'t give up our Fourth Amendment rights just because we possess a laptop, driving a car, or having a cell phone.  

Conclusion :- 
The Fourth Amendment\'s protection of privacy has proven ambiguous and inconsistent. If residents\' and police officers\' private interests are to be protected, the law must establish a more objective and socially correct understanding of privacy. When establishing the extent of the Amendment, a more objective definition of privacy as concealment and solitude should be used, and warrant expenses should be excluded when implementing its safeguards. This method should be used by courts to create comprehensive, non-discriminatory police standards, allowing the Fourth Amendment to be implemented effectively and fairly in the privacy situation. The Fourth Amendment was written and ratified when a person\'s whole assets were tangible. Privacy issues must now adapt to technical advancements, and these concerns apply to data kept in cyberspace as well. They must account for the ease with which modern technology may be used to intercept information. Though recent rulings of Supreme court of US are in favour of digital privacy but still there’s a need for a concrete upgradation in the Fourth amendment.

References :- 

What Does the Fourth Amendment Mean? <> accessed on 21st July, 2021
When the Fourth Amendment Applies? <> accessed on 21st July, 2021
4th Amendment Search and Seizure Protections, <> accessed on 21st July, 2021
Micah Schwartzbach, Understanding Search-and-Seizure Law, <,by%20definition%2C%20no%20privacy%20issues.> accessed on 21st July, 2021
The Fourth Amendment in the Digital Age and Other Considerations, <> accessed on 21st July, 2021
Protecting Privacy Under the Fourth Amendment, < > accessed on 21st July, 2021
Nathan Freed Wessler, The Supreme Court’s Most Consequential Ruling for Privacy in the Digital Age, One Year In, < > accessed on 21st July, 2021