Professor Andrew Trees, Roosevelt University
Virginia Declaration of Rights
Section 10. That general warrants, whereby any officer or messenger may be commanded to search suspected places without evidence of a fact committed, or to seize any person or persons not named, or whose offense is not particularly described and supported by evidence, are grievous and oppressive and ought not to be granted.
Section ten is a precursor to the Fourth Amendment. Although many of the other rights found in the Virginia Declaration were influenced by English precedents, this section was more of an American innovation and was in part a response to the colonists’ hatred of the general warrants issued by the British. Only stating that a general warrant “ought” not to be granted, Mason’s language is not as strong as the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of “probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” But his version clearly calls for specific warrants, not general ones. For a fuller discussion of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, see the introductory material.