Search, Seizure, and Privacy

Search, Seizure, and Privacy

Search, Seizure, and Privacy

Search, Seizure, and Privacy


Of all amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the Fourth has been called the most ambiguous, and it is from that amendment that search and seizure laws are primarily drawn. Students will learn about the legal issues and cases argued concerning protection of property and privacy, searching homes and businesses, searching people in public places, searching automobiles and baggage, and wiretapping. The Exclusionary Rule and the right to privacy beyond search and seizure are specifically examined in detail.


No area of constitutional decision making has generated more difficult decisions for the Court than the area of search and seizure. As the many people who watched O.J. Simpson's preliminary hearing on television in the summer of 1994 learned, search and seizure decisions can be complex and controversial. With decisions that require the Court to balance the rights of citizens to be free from invasions of privacy against the need of law enforcement to catch and prosecute criminals, the Supreme Court has been called upon to state the rules that control how police and other officials at every level of government must act. Issues such as when to invoke the exclusionary rule have kept the Supreme Court busy over the course of many decades.


While this volume is written for everyone, every effort has been made to make the discussion interesting and accessible to high school and undergraduate college students. Issues and Supreme Court decisions have been chosen with an eye to what students might find interesting. Cases involving schools have been included whenever appropriate.

This volume is intended to be useful both as a reference work and as a supplement to the standard textbook in social studies, history, government, political science, and law courses. The Supreme Court decisions reprinted here were chosen because of their importance and the likelihood that they would stimulate discussion about the issues presented in this volume. Teachers should consider having students read only the actual Court decisions in preparation for class discussion, and then having students read the discussion material following the class discussion.

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