Term Paper: Search and Seizure Laws

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[. . .] As he was exiting the bus he walked down the center aisle squeezing bags that were in the above carry rack over the seats (SEARCH AND SEIZURE -- WHAT IS A SEARCH? http://sol.lp.findlaw.com/1999/bond.html. Case: Bond v. United States). While squeezing the bags he noticed something that felt like a brick shaped object. The owner admitted the bag was his and allowed the agent to search it and the agent found methanphetamines. The bag owner was indicted for possession with intent to distribute.

This case seems similar to the other one. The vehicle that the bag was in was did not belong to the defendant. The bag did and it was not locked, which meant the vehicle was in possession and control of the bag. The owner of the bag admitted it was his and allowed the search. But in this case the court overturned the search and said the owner's fourth amendment rights had been violated.

The court held that passengers on buses expect that their bags are accessible to other passengers but have a reasonable expectation that their bags will not be fondled in an exploratory manner. Therefore according to the court the search and subsequent seizure of the drugs from the passenger was done in violation of his fourth amendment rights.

A person's "effects" according to the Court's longstanding case law, are not subject to Fourth Amendment protection unless that person has an actual (or subjective) expectation of privacy in the "effects" and society is prepared to accept that subjective expectation as reasonable. The key factors for the majority in this case were the opaque nature of Bond's luggage and the abnormal manner in which it was squeezed."

The court ruled that the passenger had reasonable expectation that nobody would come along and squeezes his bag to see if there was any suspicious shape or form within its contents. When that happened and he consented to the search he was under the impression he had no right to refuse. The court in this case overturned the search because the officer went through the bus squeezing bags.

It is interesting to note just how similar these two cases are yet how different they came out. Didn't the defendant in the first case have the right to a reasonable expectation that her jacket would not be searched? How come the defendant in the second case was granted that reasonable expectation? The answer may be in the subjectivity of the courts involved.

Each fourth amendment case must be heard and judged on its own merit. While there may be differences in each case, there are exact same types of cases that are ruled on differently as well. Judges or a panel of judges must scrutinize each search and seizure and they try and discover whether or not the fourth amendment rights have been violated.

Each of these cases have many similarities yet they were ruled on completely differently, which brings to light the fact that law is often subjective no matter how many times it is examined.


Anytime one studies issues of the fourth amendment rights to be protected from search and seizure that is unreasonable it is important to understand that the case may look very similar but be completely different when the facts are examined. It is not easy to discern why some cases are decided one way while others are decided in the opposite direction, but there are usually subtle differences that will allow for the differences to be evidenced. It is important that each case be studied and based on what its facts are and then held against similar previous cases as a measurement of decision. While all cases cannot be decided exactly alike it is important to understand that subjectivity does play into the cases, but the basic foundation of the fourth amendment holds true regardless of the specifics of each case.

Amendment IV http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/constitution.billofrights.html)

Supreme Court upholds search ruling Passengers' property not private in vehicle

By DENNIS CHAPTMAN of the Journal Sentinel staff Last Updated: Feb. 6, 2001


SEARCH AND SEIZURE -- WHAT IS A SEARCH? http://sol.lp.findlaw.com/1999/bond.html

Case: Bond v. United States [END OF PREVIEW]

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