Fourth Amendment: Exceptions to the Warrant Requirement (Part I)

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The Founding Fathers wrote the Fourth Amendment after their experiences with British officials who would use general warrants and writs of assistance to enter private homes and conduct searches to find evidence of any crime. The Fourth Amendment outlaws this practice and requires that search or arrest warrants particularly describe the places to be searched or things being seized, and requires that they be issued by neutral and detached magistrates. The United States Supreme Court has asserted that “the most basic constitutional rule in this area is that ‘searches conducted outside the judicial process, without prior approval by judge or magistrate, are per se unreasonable’ under the Fourth Amendment.” Still, there are exceptions to the idea that warrantless searches are always unreasonable. These exceptions are “jealously and carefully drawn” so that police must always seek a warrant, unless an exception applies. In this presentation, we look at the six major exceptions to the warrant requirement to better understand their scopes. The first three exceptions, covered in this presentation, are search incident to a lawful arrest, consent and plain view.

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