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Florida v. Bostick


The Supreme Court's ruling in Bostick, perhaps out of necessity, endorsed the historically vague application of the Fourth Amendment's search and seizure provision. The standard used to determine whether a search or seizure violates an individual's constitutional rights is "objective" reasonableness. Objective reasonableness is a hypothetical guideline used to determine whether the "typical reasonable individual" would consent to a search or seizure given the situation in question. Some contend that such a standard opens the door to perjury by law enforcement officials. There is evidence to suggest that the temptation for law enforcement officials to provide false testimony that a suspect consented to a search or seizure is too great to resist. Bostick did little to discourage such eventualities. As with many cases that involve the application of the Fourth Amendment, the central issue that Bostick addressed pertains to a citizen's knowledge of their right to deny officers permission to search their belongings or detain them. Previously, the application of the Fourth Amendment operated under the assumption that an individual understood that he or she did not have to consent to a search. O'Connor's opinion shifted the burden of proving this understanding to the person being searched; it is incumbent upon the individual to prove that a law enforcement official made it clear that he or she did not have to consent to the search.

The Bostick ruling and subsequent Rehnquist rulings such as Ohio v. Robinette (1996) and Maryland v. Wilson (1997) tilted the application of the Fourth Amendment further in favor of law enforcement practices. In Ohio the Court ruled that the Fourth Amendment does not require police officers to inform defendants that they are "free to go" in order for a consent to search the individual to be considered voluntary. In Maryland the Court held that it is not a violation of the Fourth Amendment for an officer to request that a passenger get out of a car that has been lawfully detained.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994Florida v. Bostick - Significance, Minority Opinion, Impact, Random Bus And Train Searches, Further Readings