Under the common law, searches are permitted in precedence to arrests. In most cases, the police officer may have probable cause that an individual has the intent to commit a crime. However, arresting the suspect and taking them to court may be flawed if there will be no accompanying evidence that will be produced against the person in court. Searches before arrest have elicited little controversy in courts but the main dispute regarding searches and arrest has been centered on the scope and extent of searches.
Either, there has been controversy regarding warranted and warrant less searches. Warranted searches are simple to conduct and not controversial since there is a probable cause that justifies arrest (Otis and Glenn, 2006). However, warrantless searchers are very controversial since police officers will be required to show the reasonability of their actions apart from proving evidence which provides prove of a probable cause to conduct the searches. Reasons for searches There are many reasons why the constitution allows the police officers to conduct searches.
First, there must be evidence, and if possible tangible evidence that police officers are required to produce against the suspect in court. In most cases, it would be difficult for the police officer to get this evidence unless they conduct a search on the person or the property (Bennet and Hess, 1997). Therefore the most important reason for searches is to unearth any evidence that may be used against the suspect in court of law. In most cases, when individuals realize that they are suspects, they will try to destroy any evidence that may be used against them in court (Wagner and Woods, 2008).
Therefore, searches ensure that police officers can obtain and protect this evidence thereby preventing its destruction. For example, when an individual is arrested with a traffic offence in which heroin is discovered in the vehicle, they will try to destroy this evidence before police lay hands on it. Searches will assist police officer to obtain the heroin and use it against the individual in court. Second, searches protect the police officers and other citizens. An armed suspect who has been rounded up by police officers will most probably use force to evade the arrest (Bennet and Hess, 1997).
However, an initial search can assist police officers to get the weapon from the suspect before it is used against them. In considering the scope of arrest, there has been argument regarding the extent to which police officers can carry their arrest. For example in the case we had mentioned above, an individual may be arrested with a traffic offence like over speeding. However, a further search in the vehicle may reveal heroin in a cigarette packet (Otis and Glenn, 2006). This means that once an individual has been suspected of a crime, further searches may reveal evidence on more crimes (Wagner and Woods, 2008).
The extent of search, whether to extend the search to the suspect premise or car, has been controversial. For example while earlier cases had rejected the idea of extended searches, the court approved an extend search of a four room premise in Harris v. United States. In this case, the search led to revealing of more evidence for other crimes. However, extended searches on suspect property has been limited by the fact that many court ruling overrule such warrantless searches always, arguing that there is enough time for the police to obtain a warrant of arrest.
This has in many incidences limited the success of obtaining evidence against the suspect since in the course of obtaining search warrants, there may be considerable interference with possible evidence in the property. For example when a drug peddler is arrested on the street with few grams of cocaine, it is reasonable that an immediate search is conducted in his or her premise to search for more cocaine. However, if the police officers are to wait and obtain a search warrant first, his or her friends may take all evidence available (Otis and Glenn, 2006).
Stop and frisk Under the United States constitution, arrests are made under the Fourth Amendment (Bennet and Hess, 1997). However, courts have in different circumstances allowed the police to arrest subjects and taken them to custody even where there is no warrant of arrest. The predisposing factor here being the fact that the police officer believe there is a probable cause to make the arrest ascertaining that the person has in deed committed a felony or a misdemeanor. It is to be recounted that the probable cause is also used to issue a warrant of arrest which means a warrant of arrest formalizes the process (Reuters, 2009).
However, there will be incidence where the police officer may suspect an individual of having committed a crime or intending to commit a crime from their behaviors. Although there may be eroded probable cause to stop and search such a person police officer are given discretion to stop and search such an individual in the course of preventing crime. For example in one of the highly publicized cases, Terry v. Ohio, the court showed an approval of the on-the-street investigation where police could pat down suspects for weapons (Reuters, 2009).
This case had been prompted by an incident in which a police officer was in his usual patrol duties when he spotted three men who were engaging in a suspicious conduct. From the experience the officer had gained in training, it became evident that the three were strolling around the store in a manner which suggested a motive towards committing a crime. The police officer approached them, identified himself and when the three failed to identify themselves, the police officer seized one of them, patted him on the exterior clothes where he discovered a gun.
Under the fourth amendments, individuals are protected from arbitrary searches. However, there are incidences like the above where the police officers have the instinct to believe that the suspect is behaving in a manner that suggests intent to commit a crime. The ruling of the case was based on the premise of reasonable action by police officer and probable cause (Reuters, 2009). Vehicle searches During the early days of automobiles, there was a creation by the court in vehicles holding searching in Carroll versus United States.
This stated that searching in vehicles was allowed without the provision of a warrant if the officer who undertook the search had a probable cause that made him to believe that contraband was contained in the vehicle. The explanation given by the court to the issuance of such orders was that if the vehicles were allowed to move, they would be moved away from the jurisdiction quickly if time was to be allocated to allow the acquisition of a warrant (Reuters, 2009). There was an initial limitation by the court as pertaining to Carroll’s reach, holding the vehicle while it was parked or seizure of it without a warrant (Reuters, 2009).
It also indicated that vehicles could only be stopped when they were on the move or contemporaneously on movement. The ruling of the court also stated that the vehicles were to be searched during the stop and no permission was granted to take the vehicle away to the stationhouse for the conduction of a search without a warrant which is more convenient to the police (Bennet and Hess, 1997). There was a rationale that was developed by the court next which reduced the rationale of the privacy supplementing the rationale on mobility (Reuters, 2009).
This was explained in that; the use, regulation and configuration of automobiles greatly led to the dilution of expectation of privacy that is existent in property which is differently situated. Privacy expectation is lessened in motor vehicles since they are merely used in transportation and are seldom considered to be people’s residences or as places to keep personal effects. This expectancy concept that was reduced broadened the powers of the police in relation to searching automobiles without a warrant. A probable cause was something that any police man must have in order to do a search on the vehicle.
The police are not allowed to randomize the stops that they make on vehicles which are using roads. They must instead have the probable cause or reasonable suspicion which is articulate as the basis which they use when stopping individual vehicles. They can also stop the vehicle if they suspect reasonably that it is violating safety or engaging in criminal activities. The fixed checkpoints are still upheld by the law without the presence of suspicion on individuals as vehicles are expected to make a stop. The police can validly stop the vehicle; they can also base their articulable facts that the vehicle is believed to be carrying weapons.
This allows them to perform a Terry- type search which is protective on passenger compartments where weapons could be concealed or placed (Reuters, 2009). If such a reasonable suspicion is absent, the policemen can seizure contraband or other items that are plainly viewed within the vehicle passenger compartment. The police can remove the vehicle from the scene to the station house if there is a probable cause that makes them to believe in the presence of contraband within the vehicle (Memphis police department, 2006).
The moving of the vehicle allows the police to carry out a search without the necessity of a search warrant. This warrant less search is still justified even when the vehicle has been immobilized. A warrant less seizure is guaranteed in regards to a vehicle of a person who is arrested and it can be impounded from the parking lot which is public, hours after the arrest (Reuters, 2009). The police have a right to transport it to the impoundment lot within the station and take paint scrapings from the exterior and tire casts.
Since a vehicle has minimum privacy, this impounding is justified since it is aimed at protecting the property of the owner and safety of the public (Memphis police department, 2006). If any evidence pertaining to criminal activities is discovered during the inventories course, it can be permitted in a court of law as evidence. However, it is unlawful for policemen to search passengers during a warrant less search on a vehicle. This does not limit the search in anyway since the glove compartment and the spaces which are beneath the seats can be searched and this will not be an invasion of the fourth amendment (Reuters, 2009).
Warrant less searches can be extended to closed containers and luggage that is present in the automobile on the basis of the probable cause. This rule upholds for the police having a probable cause to search the containers only or the entire vehicle with the intention of getting something that is hidden in them. Vessel Searches This has its basis in the America versus Villamonte- Marquez where the court allowed a vessel to be stopped randomly and allow custom agents to board it without the suspicion of any wrong doing but with the sole purpose of documentation inspection.
The authorization of this boarding was done by a statute which is a derivative of the first Congress Act (Reuters, 2009). This has made this statute to acquire the pedigree of being constitutionally right over the years. There are factual differences between vessel searches and vehicle searches. These differences have been associated to the access that vessels have to open sea due to the presence of the waters while vehicles have boarder areas based on thoroughfares principal.
This has therefore justified the application of minimal restrictive rules when it comes to conducting of searches within vessels. The reasons that have been given on the fourth amendment not permitting randomization of stops of vehicles is because there are roadblocks and fixed checkpoints where the vehicles have to stop. This makes these points to be less subjective to discretion abuse and feasible by the concerned authorities. When it comes to vessels, it is clear that such checkpoints are non-existent as this is not practically possible on water.
The vessels can move in the direction they chose to follow at any particular time and thus they do not follow avenues that are established like in the case of vehicles. The government is substantially interested in ensuring the enforcement of laws of documentation which is very vital in the waters where determent and apprehension of smugglers is way too great (Reuters, 2009). This led to the court ruling that limited intrusion which is not minimized normally carried out by officers boarding the ship to inspect documentation would be very reasonable.
There was an argument that was brought forward by Justin Brennan that the court had approved for the first time a randomized seizure which was complete and also detention of people. This ruling had also allowed police officers to enter noncommercial premises which were private without limiting the discretion of officers whatsoever. This ruling did not give any guidelines regarding to safeguarding people against any abuse. This marks the significant differences pertaining to warrant less searches on vehicles and vessels due to the differences in the territories under which they operate (Reuters, 2009).
Conclusion From the above reviews, it is clear that any arrests on an individual suspected to have committed crime must be accompanied with evidence from a police officer to allow for prosecution in court of law. This permits searches to be carried out on the suspects and they can either accompanied by a warrant or be warrantless. Searches that are accompanied by warrants are the easiest to carry out since there is an underlying probable cause that causes the issuance of the search.
Warrant less searches on the other hand are full of controversies since the officer has to prove beyond doubt that there was a good reason behind the search apart from providing the court with evidence. Searches are vital since they provide the evidence that is badly needed to put the criminals behind bars and ensure the safety of citizens. Some of the warrantless searches that have been allowed under American court of law include; stop and frisk where a person can be stopped by a police who believes there is a probable cause that they will commit crime from their behavior or they have already committed one.
Vehicles can be stopped and searched if they are suspected to be carrying weapons, contraband or engaged in committing of crime. This is after the officer has ascertained there is a probable cause. Documents on vessels in the sea can be searched without a warrant by officers who board the ship which is aimed at flashing out smugglers. Despite their controversy, warrant less searches can be beneficial in the long run as they ensure that evidence is not interfered with as getting a warrant can take a police officer some time.