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Sample State Court Decisions on Search and Seizure

The federal Constitution and the Supreme Court cases interpreting it establish the minimum amount of protection that a state court must provide when it's interpreting a section of the Bill of Rights that has been made applicable to the states. For instance, state courts are required to interpret and apply the protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment. This includes protections against unlawful search and seizure by police.

However, a state court interpreting the search-and-seizure provisions of its own constitution may provide more -- but not less -- protection than is afforded by the federal Constitution (as governed by the Fourth Amendment).

Selected State Court Decisions on Search and Seizure Protections

Below is a sampling of state court decisions on search and seizure, some of which provide additional protections for individuals.


Florida courts are constitutionally required to interpret search and seizure issues in conformity with the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court (see State v. Hernandez [1998]).


A driver's proceeding through a poorly lit intersection without her headlights on created reasonable suspicion to justify a traffic stop of driver under the state constitution (see State v. Hammang [2001]).


The term "exigent circumstances " refers to a catalogue of exceptional or compelling circumstances that allow police to enter, search, seize, and arrest without complying with the warrant requirements of the federal or state constitutions, including unannounced entries to search made pursuant to the state and federal "knock and announce" statutes (State v. Rauch [1978]).


Officers involved in the surveillance of an arranged drug purchase had sufficient probable cause to make an arrest of both the driver and passenger of an unidentified vehicle that was observed during the surveillance (see People v. Ortiz [2005]).


Even though police improperly searched a suspect's pockets and found drugs, these drugs inevitably would have been discovered. Under the inevitable discovery doctrine, the search was permissible. (see State v. Ingram [2005]).


Warrantless searches and seizures are unreasonable per se unless justified by one of the specific exceptions to warrant requirement of the federal and state constitutions (see State v. Manson [2001]).


Enhanced search and seizure protection under Michigan's Constitution is available only if the search or seizure occurs inside the curtilage of the house (see Mich. Const. Art. 1, § 11).


The purpose of the exclusionary rule based upon the search and seizure provision of the state constitution is to deter police misconduct, and thus there is no compelling reason to apply a more stringent standard when applying the state exclusionary rule than when applying the federal exclusionary rule (see State v. Martin [1999].

New Jersey

Racial profiling involves a claim of unlawful search and seizure in violation of the state's constitution (see State v. Velez [2000].

New Mexico

The state constitution allows a warrantless arrest only upon a showing of exigent circumstances (see American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico v. City of Albuquerque [1999]; NM Const. Art. 2, § 10).

New York

Liquor retailer had no legitimate expectation of privacy in retail customer sales records maintained by liquor wholesalers with whom the retailer had business dealings, and thus, the retailer lacked standing to challenge, as an unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the New York Constitution, the Department of Taxation and Finance's use of wholesalers' sales records to investigate suspected underreporting of sales tax by liquor retailers (see Roebling Liquors Inc. v. Comm'r of Taxation & Finance [2001]).

North Carolina

An informant was sufficiently reliable such that his tip could provide probable cause where the informant had more than 14 years of personal dealings with an officer and had led to more than 100 arrests. (see State v. Stanley [2005]).


An inventory search of a compartment of a lawfully impounded vehicle does not contravene the federal or state constitutions, where the search is administered in good faith and in accordance with reasonable police procedures or established routine (see State v. Mesa [1999]).

South Carolina

A court order violated a defendant's Fourth Amendment rights by compelling a blood sample. However, other evidence supported the defendant's conviction for murder and first-degree burglary, and the court determined that the error was harmless (see State v. Baccus [S.C. 2006]).


Without judicial participation, a municipal court clerk may not order the issuance of an arrest warrant in the absence of an authorizing statute, court rule, or ordinance (see State v. Walker [2000]).


Where police officers act in objectively reasonable reliance upon a facially valid search warrant that has been issued by a detached and neutral magistrate, a good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule applies under the state constitution, provided that the state shows the process used in obtaining the warrant included a significant investigation and review by either a police officer trained and knowledgeable in the requirements of probable cause and reasonable suspicion or a knowledgeable government attorney (see State v. Eason [2001]).

Protect Your Search and Seizure Rights With Help From an Attorney

As you can see, in addition to search and seizure law based on U.S. Supreme Court decisions, state courts decisions have also created legal precedents relating to the Fourth Amendment. Therefore, there may be some distinctions among the states as to what constitutes an unlawful search and seizure. If you have questions or a criminal case pending, your best bet is to speak with an expert criminal defense attorney.

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