Review: " Suspect Searches: Assessing Police Behavior Under the U.S. Constitution"
The article "Suspect Searches: Assessing Police Behavior Under the U.S. Constitution," by Gould and Mastrofski explores the police usage of unconstitutional searches. Unconstitutional searches are those that are in violation of the fourth amendment. The fourth amendment rights, along with certain case laws put forth the guidelines for legal stops, frisks, and searches. Gould and Mastrofski perform a direct observation study which concludes the frequency of unconstitutional searches. This article puts police procedure under the spotlight and investigates the factors that seemingly increase the likelihood that an officer would engage in unlawful searches. In some cases, differentiating between constitutional and unconstitutional searches can be a difficult task, while in other situations police officers may obviously infringe on citizens' rights. Any violation of rights poses many serious implications and consequences for policing, especially when it comes to effective community oriented policing.
The police searches are governed by the fourth amendment that provides protection against illegal search and seizure and requires that the issuing of warrants is based on probable cause. Gould and Mastrofski focus on warrant less searches. A legal search must be based on the concept of probable cause. As cited in our text book, The Police, probable cause is information that is "sufficient in themselves to warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that an offense has been or is being committed" (as cited, Brinegar v United States, 1949). A police officer must make a determination about probable cause based on the totality of the circumstances, in each and every situation. Without the existence of probable cause prior to a search, that search would be held unconstitutional and any evidence gained will usually be omitted from trial, with few exceptions.
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