Rakas v. Illinois is a criminal procedure case wherein the petitioners raised their rights to avail of the Constitutional protection provided in the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution that provides “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,” (Galiano, 2011).
The facts of the case involves a robbery incident that was reported to the police. Police saw the suspected getaway car which was driven by its owner and the petitioners who are strangers to the vehicle owner. After stopping the car the police started conducting a search and found a box of rifle shells inside the glove compartment and a rifle hidden under the passenger seat. These were seized by the police and the petitioners were arrested and charged for armed robbery. In their defense, the petitioners invoked their rights under the Fourth Amendment in an effort to suppress the evidence that were allegedly illegally searched and seized from them. Their motion was denied by the court on the ground that the provisions of the Fourth Amendment against illegal search and seizure cannot be invoked by the petitioners due to lack of legal standing to claim for the rights embodied in it. The court emphasized that the invocation of the Fourth Amendment protection against illegal search and seizure is a personal right that cannot be used vicariously against the authorities.
If I were to rule on the case, I will sustain the trial court’s contention. The practical application of the Fourth Amendment protection against search and seizure is one that is accorded to individuals whose personal rights are infringed by arbitrary and unlawful search and seizure of the authorities. The same is a personal right that can only be invoked by the person who owns the premises being searched. The extent of the protection defined in the Fourth Amendment applies the principle of being legitimately on the premises whereby a person whose protection for privacy may be invoked must have a reasonable and legitimate expectation of privacy within the premises that was searched.
Contending that the petitioners are strangers to the owner of the car and has no legal possessory interest nor legitimate reason to be in the vehicle searched, they have no standing to invoke the protection of the Fourth Amendment against illegal search and seizure. The lack of legal standing of the petitioners does not grant them the right to challenge the search and seizure conducted by the authorities under the Fourth Amendment. The essence of the Fourth Amendment is to provide protection to private citizens against illegal search and seizure against the arbritrary act of the State and its agents with the constitutional limitation that the same can only be exercised by an individual whose personal rights to privacy is sought to be protected by the law.
The petitioners are unable to meet the requirement of the practical application of the Fourth Amendment due to the lack of personal right to which they assert for the court to protect under the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment cannot be whimsically used by anyone in its defense against the State otherwise the spirit of the Fourth Amendment may be invoked to circumvent the law and may be used by criminals as a mantle of protection against their felonious acts.
Galiano, D. (2011). The fourth amendedment: Unreasonable search and seizure. New York: The Rosen Publishing.