Other Free Encyclopedias » Law Library - American Law and Legal Information » Notable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994 » United States v. Sokolow - Significance, A Brief And Unusual Trip, A Successful Police Operation, An Invasion Of Privacy

United States v. Sokolow - Significance

illegal activity drug court

The ruling demonstrated the willingness of the Court to define Fourth Amendment prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure narrowly in cases involving the transportation or sale of illegal drugs. In upholding the government's case, the Court ruled admissible the detention of suspects who merely fit a police profile for illegal activity. Prior to Sokolow, authorities were required to show evidence of "ongoing criminal activity" when using profiling to identify potential criminal suspects.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s public concern over the use of and trafficking in illegal drugs remained at a high level. Many people came to believe that constitutional guarantees of the rights of the individual served in large measure to protect criminals, and political sentiment ran toward allowing greater latitude in police work involving the illegal drug trade, and toward more stringent sentencing of convicted drug offenders. Amid this political climate, law enforcement techniques for identifying potential suspects, including profiling and the use of electronic eavesdropping devices and drug-detecting dogs, improved greatly and began to run afoul of Fourth Amendment prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure by state authorities. During this time the U.S. Supreme Court used the precedent established in Terry v. Ohio (1968), which allowed authorities to briefly detain an individual if they "have a reasonable suspicion supported by articulable fact that criminal activity 'may be afoot,' even if they lack probable cause under the Fourth Amendment," to broaden the scope of allowable activities for law enforcement officers and investigators.

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