HIAWASSEE, Ga. – The Fourth Amendment was the topic of discussion at Mountain Movers and Shakers on the morning of Friday, June 29, 2018. Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton and Colonel Gene Moss – a retired law enforcement officer from Forsyth County, Georgia – advised citizens of their constitutional rights pertaining to search and seizure.
The Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights reads: The right of 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.
Colonel Moss, who spent over four decades serving in law enforcement, opened the forum by asserting that citizens have the right to an expectation of privacy._
“We’re going to talk a little bit about searches, vehicle searches,” Moss said, adding that vehicle searches tend to be controversial, “First of all, if you’re in law enforcement, you’ve got to have a reason to stop somebody, ok? You’ve got to have a reason…Law enforcement, how far they push this thing to get into your car, to look in your vehicle,” Moss reiterated, “You’ve got to have a valid reason to stop somebody.”
Moss went on to explain that stopping a vehicle for infractions, such as driving with a broken or dim taillight or failure to maintain lane, in itself does not constitute a legitimate reason for a law enforcement officer to conduct a search.
Sheriff Clinton mirrored the colonel’s thoughts. “Anybody that’s been around me very long knows that I’m a liberty guy, a lover of the constitution,” Clinton said, going on to state that only one percent of the population commits crimes, and his office sees no reason to “harass” the other 99 percent.
The sheriff explained that reasonable and articulated suspicion, probable cause, a warrant issued by a judge, or citizen consent is necessary for a lawful search to be conducted. “For my purposes, I require by policy, our deputies have to be able to articulate what it was that lead them to ask for consent to search,” Clinton said, “This garbage about ‘Well, I don’t know you, and you don’t know me, and we’ve got a lot of drugs out here in the world. Mind if I go rifle through your stuff?’ Well if you don’t know me, and I don’t know you, why are you calling me a bad person? Shouldn’t I be observant enough and good enough at my job to know when criminal behavior is afoot?”
Reasonable suspicion is a standard of proof in United States law that is less than probable cause, the legal standard for arrests and warrants, but more than a hunch; it must be based on specific and articulable facts, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, and the suspicion must be associated with the specific individual.
Probable cause is the standard by which police authorities have reason to obtain a warrant for the arrest of a suspected criminal or the issuing of a search warrant. The principle behind the standard is to limit the power of authorities to perform random or abusive searches, and promote the lawful gathering of evidence during criminal arrest and prosecution.
Mountain Movers and Shakers meet Fridays at 8:00 a.m. at Sundance Grill in Hiawassee, with different community speakers each week. Meetings are open to the public, and membership is not required.