Writing Sample

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Wendy D. Adams
Writing Sample

This writing sample represents one of two arguments constructed for the final paper in my Spring 2011 Legal Research & Writing class. University of Idaho


I.Should a court’s application of the single-purpose container exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement be based on the knowledge of a layperson because it satisfies the fundamental principles established by the U.S. Supreme Court for Fourth Amendment standards by being workable, objective, and limiting the risk of intrusion?

The Voorhees family operated the St. Maries Printing Co. for nearly 125 years until the government succeeded in a seven-month campaign to induce Richard Voorhees to counterfeit documents. (R. 9, 10). As a result of this investigation, Mr. Voorhees was charged with counterfeiting and on October 1, 2010, investigators entered his shop with a warrant to seize printing equipment. (R. 24). During the search, an officer noticed a locked rectangular black opaque case lying on a counter marked with the word “Taurus.” Based on his professional “training and fieldwork,” he recognized the case as one in which a Taurus handgun could be stored, though he acknowledged “the average person” would not have recognized the case (R. 25). Mr. Voorhees did not consent to a search of the case; however, officers pried it open with a screwdriver and seized a Taurus handgun.

Mr. Voorhees was sentenced to 240 months in prison for possession of a stolen firearm and selling counterfeit birth certificates and social security cards. (R. 4). He now appeals to the Fourteenth Circuit Court of Appeals stating that the district court erred in ruling he was not entitled to a jury instruction on entrapment and in ruling that the single-purpose container exception applied to the FBI’s warrantless search of a locked container on his property. (R. 2). STANDARD OF REVIEW

The court reviews questions of probable cause to make warrantless searches de novo. Ornelas v. U.S., 517 U.S. 690, 691 (1996).

I. the single-purpose container exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement should be based on the knowledge of a layperson because it is The only STANDARD THAT IS WORKABLE, OBJECTIVE, AND LIMITS THE RISK OF INTRUSION ON PRIVACY INTERESTS.

In using their own varied experiences to evaluate the case found in Mr. Voorhees’s print shop, the officers violated Mr. Voorhees’s Fourth Amendment right to be secure against an unreasonable search. Because the case was not recognizable to a layperson, an officer with less experience may not have recognized the case and thus would not have pried it open with a screwdriver. Mr. Voorhees’s rights in this instance were not determined by the Constitution or by the courts as intended by the founding fathers, but by a police officer who happened to recognize a case laying on Mr. Voorhees’s counter. The Fourth Amendment states that “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. The Supreme Court continues to uphold the colonists’ original view that a warrant is the preferred method because it prevents broad-sweep searches without the impartial judicial oversight of a Magistrate to evaluate probable cause. Johnson v. U.S., 333 U.S. 10, 14 (1948); Aguilar v. Texas, 378 U.S. 108, 110 (1964). Indeed, courts have consistently sustained the “cardinal principle that ‘searches conducted outside the judicial process, without prior approval by judge or magistrate, are per se...
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