Arrest, Searches and Seizures Under the Fourth Amendment

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People tend to use scopes of probable cause and reasonable suspicion interchangeably. However, they cover separate but related contexts which should not be misused. According to the United States’ Supreme Court, reasonable suspicion involves a situation where a prudent law enforcement agent relies on common sense beyond a conjectural hunch or imagination to identify an ongoing crime or the one which is likely to be committed. Where there is reasonable suspicion, the officer is mandated by the law to frisk or momentarily detain the suspect. Subsequently, court cases like Terry V. Ohio, 392 U.S (1968), Florida V. Bostick 501 U.S 429, 437 (1991), and Illinois V. Wardlow 528 U.S. 119 (2000) became central in defining the requirements of a stop and frisk (Carbado, 2020). They established that a check must primarily be based on reasonable suspicion and limited to police patting the suspect to ensure they are not armed.

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One may view the context of probable cause as a higher standard or escalation to reasonable suspicion. Both rely on the objective evaluation of the law enforcement agent about circumstances of criminal activity. Unlike reasonable suspicion, probable cause repercussions extend to a search warrant or arrest (Carthew, 2019). Therefore, the police agent has to have fair or enough information to sustain the probability of incriminating evidence or that the suspect has committed a crime, respectively. For example, in Goldberg v. State, 95 SW.3d 345 (Tex. App. 2002), the court held properly the apprehension of Mr. Goldberg since the police had trustworthy and sufficient information to warrant it. However, when an officer’s merits are questionable the hearing authority may instruct the release of the suspect.

As a baseline, the fourth amendment requires policing agents to obtain a warrant to make lawful detentions. However, it exempts probable cause and urgent-need cases, especially when the enforcement agents have factual information to substantiate their reasonable belief. Case in point, a suspect may be arrested if the officer has a legitimate belief that the person is a threat to public safety or other exigent circumstances (Gray, 2016). Therefore, in the absence of a warrant, the one must provide objective justification or proof of urgent need.

It is a requirement for the courts to ensure that warrants meet the necessary criteria. They include, legitimate establishment of probable cause, an officer’s oath or filing of good faith, and a detailed description of the place and items to be searched (Gray, 2016). The first two stipulations focus on establishing the warrant’s validity based on the obtained information. The last one is to ensure that the search or seizure does not go beyond the allowed intrusion and infringe on the person’s right to privacy.

The fourth amendment also exempts circumstances, under which police can conduct a search or arrest without a warrant. They include consent, plain view, search incident to arrest, hot pursuit, and exigent circumstances (Carthew, 2019). First, one may obtain voluntary consent from the suspect to search their area. Secondly, it relates to when the officer who is lawfully within a premise explicitly encounters incriminating evidence. Thirdly, a search warrant is not needed to probe and pat down a person who is legally arrested or even forage their immediate surroundings. Also, if left unattended, some circumstances would alter crucial evidence or endanger other people—such scenarios do not require a warranty. Lastly, law enforcers may intrude on a premise when a fleeing criminal enters a private dwelling.

In summary, the court’s function in case of warrantless searches, seizures, or even arrests is to determine the degree of intrusion to a person’s right to privacy. The judges or magistrates have to balance the right with the discourse of the government’s interests and exigent circumstances. The fourth amendment has stipulations which guide or help to determine the constitutionality of such processes.


Carthew, A. (2019). Searches and seizures-fourth amendment and reasonableness in general: protection of privacy interests in the digital age. North Dakota Law Review, 94 (1), 197-220.

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Carbado, D. W. (2020). Stop-and-strip violence: The doctrinal migrations of reasonable suspicion. Harvard Civil Rights. Civil Liberties Law Review, 55(2), 467-490.

Gray, D. (2016). Fourth amendment remedies as rights: the warrant requirement. Boston University Law Review, 96, 425-483.

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Premium Papers. (2022, November 13). Arrest, Searches and Seizures Under the Fourth Amendment. Retrieved from


Premium Papers. (2022, November 13). Arrest, Searches and Seizures Under the Fourth Amendment.

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"Arrest, Searches and Seizures Under the Fourth Amendment." Premium Papers, 13 Nov. 2022,


Premium Papers. (2022) 'Arrest, Searches and Seizures Under the Fourth Amendment'. 13 November.


Premium Papers. 2022. "Arrest, Searches and Seizures Under the Fourth Amendment." November 13, 2022.

1. Premium Papers. "Arrest, Searches and Seizures Under the Fourth Amendment." November 13, 2022.


Premium Papers. "Arrest, Searches and Seizures Under the Fourth Amendment." November 13, 2022.