United States v. Lee
Was There A High Seas Search?
The Supreme Court further concluded that if the Coast Guard conducted a search of the vessel on the high seas, the search was constitutional because it was an incident of a lawful arrest. However, the Court agreed with the government's contention that the evidence did not establish that the Coast Guard had, in fact, conducted a `search' on the high seas that would trigger the protections of the Fourth Amendment. The Coast Guard boatswain testified that he used a searchlight to view the motorboat and no testimony was given that exploration below decks or under hatches took place. It appeared to the Court that the cases of liquor may have been on deck and may have been discovered when the boatswain shone the searchlight on the motorboat before it was boarded. The Court stated, "[s]uch use of a searchlight is comparable to the use of a marine glass or a field glass. It is not prohibited by the Constitution."
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