The 4th amendment of the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights, the bill of the first ten amendments to the Constitution. The 4th amendment itself guards against unreasonable search and seizure, as well as requiring arrest warrants that are supported by judicially confirmed probable cause.
In many ways, it’s the 4th amendment upon which groups like American Civil Liberties Union, which most consider to be left-leaning, build their causes. Yet while the 4th amendment is the legal foundation for the ACLU, it’s right-leaning demagogues and voters who most often cite the 4th amendment as one to be held dear.
It’s a bizarre juxtaposition, one that’s wrapped up in what’s called identity politics. People who identify themselves as part off the main group – in the United States, that traditionally means white and middle class – tend to exhibit a fear of groups who identify as other.
Traditionally that’s meant immigrant groups, blacks, American Indians, even women. Once one of these groups organizes and creates and identity, they become a threat to the status quo. What usually then ensues is a good old fashioned identity politics fight, in which the other group fights for equality in one way or the other.
So in the eyes of many Americans, the 4th amendment empowers other groups and becomes a thorn in the side of movements like the Know Nothings of the nineteenth century, or even this current century’s Tea Party movement.
For people like the tea partiers, they claim that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are sacred, but they want to eviscerate any rights (like the 4th amendment) that protect people of all races, ethnicities, religions and backgrounds.
This really began to become an issue in the 1960s, with the coming of desegregation, the Civil Rights Act of 1965 and the general integration of black Americans into the middle class.
One of the keystone rulings was 1967’s Katz vs. United States, in which Charles Katz had been convicted of illegal gambling through use of a local public payphone. Unbeknownst to Katz, the FBI had tapped the phone and used the tapes in the hearing.
When the case made it all the way up to the supreme court, the court ruled that the 4th amendment protects people, not places. Therefore, the rights of an individual may not be violated by the government, regardless of whether or not there is a physical intrusion into any given area.