This is the third in a series of posts I want to do on the Bill of Rights. It seems that most Americans have forgotten or never learned what these first ten amendments to our Constitution said and what they mean to our freedoms. The Constitution would not have been ratified without them.
In this post I am going to look at the third and fourth amendments. The third amendment requires little comment because it does not really pertain today, although it could be at some later time so I have said little about it, allowing be to cover two amendments in this post.
Third Amendment: Conditions for quarters of soldiers
No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
Before the Revolutionary War the British army forcibly quartered, our housed, their troops in civilian homes at the expense of the citizens. This amendment protects us from this forced occupation of civilian homes by the military.
Fourth Amendment: Rights of search and seizure regulated
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
In the colonies, the British issued general warrants authorizing officers to enter into any house to search and to seize anything deemed by the officer to be “prohibited and uncustomed.” The problem that caused these warrants to be issued was the smuggling of items to avoid pay taxes.
The problem with these warrants was not that they authorized the search and seizure, but that they did not require any probable cause, nor did they limit the place or time frame in which the search could occur. The warrants were valid from the time of their issue until six months after the death of the King under whose authority they were issued. The fact that they were general in scope and unlimited in time opened the door to much abuse.
The Supreme Court has, over the years, authorized a number of exceptions to this amendment. This should be a warning to the citizens. The selection of Supreme Court justices is one of the most important powers of the President and the type of people he is likely to choose for the Court should be a major consideration in his election.
With each exception to this amendment we loose more personal security. It may, at times, seem reasonable to issue general warrants for things like monitoring phone calls to prevent terrorist attacks, but these warrants will have two negative effects on our personal security. First, you can be sure that the wording will be twisted to include things that were not intended. Secondly, since the courts interpret laws based upon precedence (what other courts have decided), bad rulings will be fixed in our legal system.
To protect our rights under this amendment, and under the Constitution as a whole, we need justices who will make decisions based upon what the Constitution says, and not upon what others have said it means. These justices are called “strict constructionist” justices because the interpret the Constitution according to what is says, not by what they want it to mean. They interpret the mean of the words by what they meant at the time of the writing of the Constitution, not by what they may mean today.
Copyright 2017 Pierre Coovert, All rights reserved