"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" (Fourth Amendment, http://findlaw.com, 2003).
The fourth amendment to the United States Constitution is an important addition that guarantees" our right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. It also states that no searches and seizures can be conducted without probable cause nor can any warrants be issued. This is very vague, and the term "probable cause" has been left widely un-interpreted after the ratifying of the constitution. This amendment continues to produce controversy and remains debated in our society today. What is "probable cause"? How is it determined? When did it become a factor in our early American society? What specifically is it used for?.
The topic of probable cause stretches back to England in the 1600's. The Semayne's case in 1604 established the right of a homeowner to defend his home against unlawful entry from the king's agents. A general warrant was required which needed probable cause to obtain or, if the situation did not require a warrant, then proper reason was needed. Also illustrated in the Entick vs. Carrington case, the Supreme Court of England defined the scope of a search within listed items on the search warrant connected to criminal activity, requiring probable cause (Fourth Amendment, http://findlaw.com, 2003).
Colonial America played a significant role in the reasoning and shaping for the fourth amendment. When the British ruled, before the uprisings of colonists, they were allowed to search and enter any property they wished. "Writs of assistance" were supposed to be official documents allowing the British authorities to enter a home to search or seize any smuggled goods.