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Handout C: Interpreting the Fourth Amendment

“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.”



  1. What qualifies as “persons”?
  2. What qualifies as “houses”?
  3. What qualifies as “papers”?
  4. What qualifies as an “effect”?
  5. What words/phrases come to mind for the word “unreasonable”?
  6. How do you know if you or your property has been “seized”? What characteristics define “seizure”?
  7. In general, “probable cause” means the facts of a given situation would convince a reasonable person that a crime has been, or is being, committed. What sorts of facts or circumstances might make up probable cause?