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Text of Amendment:
Writs of Assistance:
The Fourth Amendment was written directly in response to British general warrants (called Writs of Assistance), in which the Crown would grant general search powers to British law enforcement official.
These officials could search virtually any home they liked, at any time they liked, for any reason they liked or for no reason at all. Since many of the founding fathers were smugglers, this was an especially unpopular concept in the colonies.
In practical terms, there is no means by which the government can exercise prior restraint on law enforcement officials. If an officer in Jackson, Mississippi wants to conduct a warrantless search without probable cause, the judiciary is not present at the time and can't prevent the search. This meant that the Fourth Amendment had little power or relevance until 1914.
The Exclusionary Rule:
In Weeks v. United States (1914), the Supreme Court established what has been known as the exclusionary rule. The exclusionary rule states that evidence obtained through unconstitutional means is inadmissible in court and cannot be used as part of the prosecution's case. Before Weeks, law enforcement officials could violate the Fourth Amendment without being punished for it, secure the evidence, and use it at trial.
The exclusionary rule establishes consequences for violating a suspect's Fourth Amendment rights.
The rest is here:
Fourth Amendment - the Text, Origins, and Meaning
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