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Search and Seizure

Overview

Search and seizure is a necessary exercise in the ongoing pursuit of criminals. Searches and seizures are used to produce evidence for the prosecution of alleged criminals. The police have the power to search and seize, but individuals are protected against ARBITRARY, unreasonable police intrusions. Freedom from unrestricted search warrants was critical to American colonists.

Under England's rule, many searches were unlimited in scope and conducted without justification. Customs officials could enter the homes of colonists at will to search for violations of customs and trade laws, and suspicionless searches were carried out against outspoken political activists. Searches in the colonies came to represent governmental oppression.

To guard against arbitrary police intrusions, the newly formed United States in 1791 ratified the U.S. Constitution's FOURTH AMENDMENT, which states:

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.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Roberts v. United States Jaycees to Secretary of StateSearch and Seizure - Overview, State Action, Reasonable Expectation Of Privacy, Probable Cause And Reasonable Suspicion, Arrest And Miranda