ii. Search and Seizure – reasonable or unreasonable?

     This page is continued from Criminal Proceedings >>>> 1. The Arrest, Search and Seizure, and Booking:


search and seizure:

1. Means for the detection and punishment of crime; the search for and taking custody of property unlawfully obtained or unlawfully held, such as stolen goods, property forfeited for violation of the law, and property the use of possession of which is prohibited by law, and the discovery and taking into legal custody of books, papers, and other things constituting or containing evidence of crime. [1]

1. “Unreasonable searches and seizures” are prohibited by the Fourth Amendment.

unreasonable search and seizure:

1. The Fourth Amendment prohibits the police and other agents of the government from conducting “unreasonable searches and seizures.”  This means that, with limited exceptions (EXAMPLE: in connection with a lawful arrest), one’s home can be searched only if a warrant is issued authorizing the search; further, the warrant must be based upon probable cause.
     See exclusionary rule; search; seizure. [2]

unreasonable search:

1. A search conducted without probable cause or other considerations that would make it legally permissible. — aka illegal search. [1]

Related Terms:

search – upon probable cause, examination of a person’s body, property, or other area the person considers private, by a law enforcement officer, for the purpose of finding evidence of a crime.

  • search warrant, various types of
    • search-warrant affidavit – an affidavit that sets forth facts and circumstances supporting the existence of probable cause, requesting the judge to issue a search warrant
      • knock-and-announce rule – officers must knock and announce their identity, authority, and purpose before entering a residence to execute an arrest or search warrant. — aka knock-and-notice rule.
        • no-knock search warrant – a type of search warrant that authorizes exception to the knock-and-announce rule because a prior announcement would probably lead to the destruction of the objects searched for or someone(s) safety.

seizure – the actual or constructive taking possession of a person or property by color of legal right or process.

constructive seizure (1830) A manifest intent to seize and take possession of another person’s property, usually either by lawfully acquiring actual custody and control of the property or by posting notice of the property’s pending foreclosure.

unreasonable search:

1. A search conducted without probable cause or other considerations that would make it legally permissible. — aka illegal search. [1]


adj. (14c)

1. Fair, proper, or moderate under the circumstances; sensible <reasonable pay>.

2. According to reason <your argument is reasonable but not convincing>.  See PLAUSIBLE (1). [3]

1. Not extreme.  not arbitrary, capricious, or confiscatory. Public Service Com v Havemeyer, 296 US 506, 80 L Ed 356, 56 S Ct 360.

     “What is reasonable depends upon a variety of considerations and circumstances.  It is an elastic term which is of uncertain value in a definition.” Sussex Land & Live Stock Co. v Midwest Refining Co. (CA8 Wyo) 294 F 597, 34 ALR 249, 257. [1]

1. Fair; equitable; just.

2. Rational; not arbitrary or capacious; sensible.

3. Appropriate; suitable.  “Reasonable” is a term whose precise meaning depends upon the context in which is it used.
     See reasonable man test. [2]

     Excerpt from John Salmond’s Jurisprudence (Glanville L. Williams ed., 10th ed. 1947):

      “It is extremely difficult to state what lawyers mean when they speak of ‘reasonableness.’  In part the expression refers to ordinary ideas of natural law or natural justice, in part to logical thought, working upon the basis of the rules of law.[4]

Excerpt from Patrick Devlin’s The Judge 134 (1979):

     “In one sense the word [reasonable] describes the proper use  of the reasoning power, and in another it is no more than a word fo assessment.  Reasoning does not help much in fixing a reasonable or fair price or a reasonable or moderate length of time, or in estimating the size or a doubt.  Lawyers say a reasonable doubt, meaning a substantial one; the Court of Appeal has frowned upon the description of a reasonable doubt as one for which reason could be given.[5]


reasonable suspicion:

1. A particularized and objective basis supported by specific and articulable facts, for suspecting a person of criminal activity.  *  A police officer must have reasonable suspicion to stop a person in a public place. [3]

reasonable belief:

1. A belief begotten by attendant circumstances of the case.  Due care under the circumstances. 38 Am J1st Negl § 29.

reasonable cause:

1. For prosecution: — the existence of a reasonable ground for presumption that the charge is or may be well founded. Wood v United States (US) 16 pet 342, 366, 10 L Ed 987, 996.

A reasonable amount of suspicion, supported by circumstances sufficiently strong to warrant a cautious man in believing that the accused is guilty. Tucker v Cannon, 32 Neb 444, 446. [1]


Disclaimer: All material throughout this website is compiled in accordance with Fair Use.

[1]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations
Third Edition by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[2]:  Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.

[3]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black & Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-62130-6.

[4]: John Salmond’s Jurisprudence 183 n.(u) (Glanville L. Williams ed., 10th ed. 1947).

[5]: Patrick Devlin’s The Judge 134 (1979).


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