With regard to searches and arrests, the most important rights of individuals are found in the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. The Fourth protects an individual’s right to privacy, stating that a warrant is needed to search one’s house. Later Supreme Court decisions clarified this law, creating some exceptions. As the law stands, in almost all cases, a police officer cannot search a vehicle or arrest someone unless he/she has one of the following:
- A search warrant
- An arrest warrant
- Probable cause that the individual committed a crime
The law is quite severe concerning violations of the Fourth Amendment; evidence, whether material or in the form of a confession, arising from violations of the Fourth Amendment is not valid in court.
The Fifth Amendment relates to the so called, “Miranda Rights.” The Supreme Court has ruled that, before questioning an individual in custody, the Miranda Rights must be read, including the Fifth Amendment Right not to make any self-incriminating statements. The Miranda Rights are:
- You have the right to remain silent
- Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law
- You have the right to have an attorney present during questioning
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you
If the Miranda Rights are not read before an interrogation of a suspect in custody, and statements or confessions made are not valid in court and cannot be held against the individual. Furthermore, the reading of the statements must be understood by the suspect. The police do not need to read the Miranda rights every time they pull someone over or arrest someone (though this often happens in movies). They must be read only when the person being questioned is not free to leave.