Searches in the Criminal Justice System

The search of vehicles without a warrant was first permitted by the Supreme Court in the Carroll v. . The Court argued that a vehicle can be searched by a police officer if the police officer has a probable cause to believe that smuggled or illegal goods are being carried in the vehicle. The reasoning behind this lies in the mobility of vehicles which can enable the owners of the vehicles to tamper with the probable evidence should a warrant be necessary to conduct a search of the vehicle.

A number of conditions were however required for the police to conduct a warrant-less search of vehicles. First, the vehicle in question ought to have been in motion and not stationary. Second, the police had to conduct the search immediately after stopping the vehicle. The Court did not permit the police to tow the impounded vehicle to the police station to conduct the search there. Following this ruling, the Supreme Court then created a reduced privacy justification to append the mobility justification.

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The Court argued that, one has a lesser expectation of privacy in a motor vehicle because its function is transportation and it seldom serves as ones residence or as the repository of personal effects. It where both its occupants and its contents are in plain view, (Schmalleger and Armstrong, 1997, p.246). Based on this rationale, the Court allowed the police to conduct a search of an impounded vehicle on any items that are in plain view of the police.

In addition, the Court also allowed the police to move an impounded vehicle to the stationhouse for a search. However, this must be done only if the police have a probable cause to believe that the vehicle contains some smuggled goods. In addition, the police can conduct a search of the luggage and containers found in the vehicle. The permission to search the plain view items in the vehicle does not however extend to the passengers of the vehicle. Police are not allowed to conduct any search of the passengers but they can search the glove compartment and the spaces under the passengers seats without a warrant. Any evidence that is obtained from such searches is admissible in court and it can be used to incriminate the owner.

The Fourth Amendment to the from illegal searches. However, some people may opt to waiver this right and agree to a warrant-less search. In some cases, the consent given may be voluntary while in other cases consent can be given through coercion. It is therefore the burden of the jury to determine the voluntariness of the consent given and the awareness of the suspect of his right of choice. The actual knowledge of the suspect of his right of choice does not influence voluntariness and therefore the police are not mandated to provide the suspect with the Miranda warnings.

However, consent is not considered to be voluntary if the police officer declares his official status and claim of right to the suspect and the suspect accepts these factors instead of making his own decision to allow the officer to search him or his premises. On the other hand, consent can be obtained through the dishonesty of an undercover police or an informant who wants to gain admission without informing the suspect of his official status.

The evidence obtained in this manner is considered by the Supreme Court to be acceptable in court. Bergman and Berman (2008) state that, the Court has held that the suspect has simply assumed the risk that an invitee would betray him, and evidence obtained through the deception is admissible, (p.47). Consent can also be given by a third party and the evidence obtained is admissible in court. The third party must however have some authority or adequate association with the premises and items to be searched.

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