The Bill of Rights and Due Process

Covers search and seizure, rights of the accused, due process of law, jury trials, and protection from cruel and unusual punishment guaranteed in the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments.

What Is a Reasonable Expectation of Privacy?

Clock 100 minutes

The Constitutional principle of due process, which holds that government must interact with citizens according to duly-enacted laws, balances the rights of suspects with public safety. This lesson explores the protections provided by the Fourth Amendment and how the Supreme Court has interpreted it over time.

Founding Principles

Due Process image

Due Process

The government must interact with all citizens according to the duly-enacted laws; applying these rules equally among all citizens.

Inalienable / Natural Rights image

Inalienable / Natural Rights

Freedoms which belong to us by nature and can only be justly taken away through due process.

Individual Responsibility image

Individual Responsibility

Individuals must take care of themselves and their families and be vigilant to preserve their liberty.

Liberty image

Liberty

Except where authorized by citizens through the Constitution, the government does not have the authority to limit freedom.

Overview

The Constitutional principle of due process, which holds that government must interact with citizens according to duly-enacted laws, balances the rights of suspects with public safety. The Fourth Amendment was added to the Constitution to ensure we would be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures. Further, surveillance technology has posed challenges to the meaning and application of the Fourth Amendment, and understandings of “reasonable,” “papers and effects,” and “search” have changed over time.

Objectives

Students will:

  • Understand the principle of due process, which holds that the government must interact with all citizens according to the tenets of the law; applying these rules equally among all citizens.
  • Understand ways the Supreme Court has interpreted the Fourth Amendment.
  • Evaluate whether the Fourth Amendment is effectively protecting citizens from unreasonable search and seizure.

Materials

  • Handout A: Background Essay: How Have the Protections of the Fourth Amendment been Interpreted, Applied, and Enforced?
  • Handout B: Attitude Inventory
  • Handout C: Interpreting the Fourth Amendment
  • Handout D: Should You Expect Privacy? ƒƒ
  • “Are They Watching You” Game, available at http://teachingfoundingprinciples.org

Standards

  • NCHS (9-12): Era III, Standards 3A and 3B
  • CCE (9-12): IIA1, IIA2, IID3
  • NCSS: Strands 6 and 10

Background 15 min. (day before)

Have students read Handout A: Background Essay—How Have the Protections of the Fourth Amendment Been Interpreted, Applied, and Enforced? and answer the questions.

Warm-up 10 min.

Day I

  1. Distribute Handout B: Attitude Inventory and do a think-pair-share. If students wish to change their answers after discussing with their partner, they should feel free to do so.
  2. Reconvene the class and ask for a few volunteers to share their responses. Which items led to the most discussion? Did anyone change their mind? Why?
  3. Ask students how they responded to the questions that asked about their understanding of concepts (numbers 1-2). What information do students need to increase their understandings? Make a list on the board and refer to it through the activities.

Activities 60 min. over two days

Day I

Activity I – 10 minutes

  1. Project and/or distribute Handout C: Interpreting the Fourth Amendment. Read the text of the Fourth Amendment aloud to the class.
  2. Ask students to contribute their answers, and type or write their contributions on the projected handout. See the Answer Key for suggested responses.

Activity II – 20 minutes

  1. Put students in groups of 2-4, and distribute Handout D: Should You Expect Privacy?
  2. Give students 10 minutes to complete the chart. After deciding on each scenario, they should include a one-sentence justification.
  3. Bring the class together and ask for student responses to the first scenario.
  4. When student discussion of each scenario is complete, share the information from the Answer Key.

 

Day II

Activity – 30 minutes

  1. Have students play the “Are They Watching You” interactive game, available at http://teachingfoundingprinciples.org. In this game, students will explore five colorful, interactive scenes and analyze instances of possible searches.
  2. Remind students that the Fourth Amendment only limits government, but to look for all instances of searches or surveillance. The questions that follow several items will ask them to consider whether the Fourth Amendment would apply.
  3. Encourage students to write thoughtful answers to the final question.

Wrap-up 55 min. (over two days)

Day I

Wrap-Up – 5 minutes
Conduct a brief discussion on the following questions.

  1. Is it always clear when someone has a “reasonable expectation of privacy”?
  2. Based on the kinds of things the Supreme Court has said the Fourth Amendment allows government to do, is that amendment effectively protecting citizens from unreasonable search and seizure?
  3. Why is it important that Americans have an ongoing conversation about what is private and what government can and cannot do to its citizens?

 

Day II

Wrap-Up – 20 minutes

  1. Clarify any questions about Fourth Amendment applications, especially the difference between public and private actors.
  2. Ask students to answer the questions on Handout B again individually, using a different color pen than they did last time. After a few minutes, have students pair up once again to discuss their answers.
  3. Reconvene the class for one final discussion on the questions: Is the Fourth Amendment is effectively protecting citizens from unreasonable search and seizure? What can citizens do if the government violates constitutional protections? Why is the constitutional principle of due process important?

Homework

  1. Have students pretend they are a member of Congress who wishes to propose a new amendment to the U.S. Constitution that “updates” the Fourth Amendment and addresses new issues of personal privacy. In ONE sentence—just as the Fourth Amendment is one sentence—have them write a new amendment that includes Fourth Amendment-style protections for new technologies and modern life. In 2-3 paragraphs, have students defend and justify what they included in their new, proposed Amendment.
    1. Do they believe their proposed amendment answers ALL of the potential challenges to both privacy and search/seizure in modern life and going forward? Is it even possible?
    2. What does this assignment reveal about the durability of the Fourth Amendment?
  2. Explain to students that customs agents at the national border may search individuals or their property without a warrant. The same is true at an airport when someone wants to board a flight. (Airports have been the subject of controversy with the installation of backscatter radiation full-body scanners and the carrying out of full-body pat-downs). Write a 2-3 paragraph response to the following questions:
    1. How have fears of terrorism affected the way people view these practices?
    2. What other criminal procedures, if any, would it be acceptable to relax in light of the war on terror?
  3. Invite a school official to your class to speak to students and ask the following questions. Students should then write a 2-3 paragraph summary of the official’s answers, closing with a statement of student opinion about the state of the Fourth Amendment in your school:
    1. What situations have you encountered in which you’ve conducted a search?
    2. How do you make a decision about conducting a search? What district policies, state laws, or Supreme Court ruling guide your decision to conduct a search?
    3. Do you believe the application of the Fourth Amendment in schools both upholds student rights and the need to preserve school safety and learning? Why or why not?

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