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The Fourth Amendment provides that, '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.' The basic purpose of this Amendment, as recognized in countless decisions, is to safeguard the privacy and security of individuals against arbitrary invasions by governmental officials. The Fourth Amendment thus gives concrete expression to a right of the people which 'is basic to a free society.' Wolf v. Colorado, 338 U. S. 25, 338 U. S. 27. As such, the Fourth Amendment is enforceable against the States through the Fourteenth Amendment. Ker v. California, 374 U. S. 23, 374 U. S. 30.

Though there has been general agreement as to the fundamental purpose of the Fourth Amendment, translation of the abstract prohibition against 'unreasonable searches and seizures' into workable guidelines for the decision of particular cases is a difficult task which has for many years divided the members of the Court. Nevertheless, one governing principle, justified by ...

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