Various Types of Lawful Warrantless Searches:

     This page is continued from Criminal Proceedings >>>> 1. The Arrest, Search and Seizure, and Booking >>>>  Search and Seizure – reasonable or unreasonable? >>>> Search:


warrantless search:

1. A search conducted without obtaining a warrant.  *  Warrantless searches are permissible under exigent circumstances or when conducted incident to an arrest.  See exigent circumstances under CIRCUMSTANCE; protective search. [1]

1. The arrest of a person without a search warrant.  A police officer may make such a search if it is made in connection with a lawful arrest. [2]

administrative search (1960) 1. Administrative law. The inspection of a facility by one or more officials of an agency with jurisdiction over the facility’s fire, health, or safety standards.  *  The administrative search is an exception to the rule that searches require a warrant based on probable cause. Because an administrative search is not related to a criminal investigation, no warrant is usually required. — aka regulatory search; inspection search.

border search (1922) 1. A search conducted at the border of a country, especially at a checkpoint, to exclude illegal aliens and contraband.

     Excerpt from Charles H. Whitebread, Criminal Procedure 5 12.02, at 227 (1980):

     “[W]arrantless searches and seizures conducted at natonal boundaries are permitted under the general authority of the United States to ensure the integrity of its borders.  As the Supreme Court stated in Carroll v. United States, such activity ensures ‘national self-protection reasonably requiring one entering the country to identify himself as entitled to come in, and his belongings as effects which may be lawfully brought in.’ [267 U.S. 132, 154, 45 S.Ct. 280, 285 (1925).]  Thus, the right to remain silent and protect one’s personal belongings from government intrusion, normally afforded constitutional protection, are surrendered at the border. [3]

2. Loosely, a search conducted near the border of a country.  *  Generally, searches near the U.S. border are treated no differently from those conducted elsewhere in the country.

checkpoint search (1973) 1. A search anywhere on a military installation.  2. A search in which police officers set up roadblocks and stop motorists to ascertain whether the drivers are intoxicated.

consent search – conducted after a person with the authority to do so voluntarily waives Fourth Amendment rights. — aka consensual search; permissive search.

constructive search (1946) A subpoena of a corporation’s records.

      Excerpt from 68 Am. Jur. 2d Searches and Seizures § 44, at 674 (1993):

     “Tilt is settled that the so-called ‘constructive search’ involved in an administrative subpoena of corporate books or records constitutes a ‘search’ or ‘seizure’ within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. [5]

emergency search (1971) A warrantless search conducted by a police officer who has probable cause and reasonably believes that, because of a need to protect life or property, there is not enough time to obtain a warrant.  See EMERGENCY DOCTRINE (3).

exigent search (1974) A warrantiess search carried out under exigent circumstances, such as an imminent danger to human life or a risk of the destruction of evidence.  See exigent circumstances under CIRCUMSTANCE.

inventory search (1966) A complete search of an arrestee’s person be ore the arrestee is booked into jail.  *  All possessions found are typically held in police custody.

investigative search (1964) A search, especially a police search, of the contents of a place, vehicle, bag, or the like for the purpose of cataloguing the items, eliminating dangerous items, and protecting the custodian from theft claims.

manual body-cavity search (1982) A strip search in which the police engage in some touching or probing of a person’s orifices. — aka digital body-cavity search.

pretextual search (1968) A police search of a person or vehicle for fabricated reasons that are calculated to forestall or preclude constitutional objections. — aka pretext search.

private search – A search conducted by a private person rather than by a law-enforcement officer.  *  Items found during a private search are generally admissible in evidence if the person conducting the search was not acting at the direction of a law-enforcement officer.

protective search (1967) 1. A search of a detained suspect and the area within the suspect’s immediate control, conducted to protect the arresting officer’s safety (as from a concealed weapon) and often to preserve evidence.  *  Typically broader than a search incident to arrest, a protective search can be conducted without a warrant. Chimel v. California, 395 US. 752, 89 S.Ct. 2034 (1969). — aka Chimel search (sha mel).  2. Broadly, any search conducted to secure an area.

search incident to arrest (1930) A warrantless search of a suspect’s person and immediate vicinity, no warrant being required because of the need to keep officers safe and to preserve evidence.  *  Although protective in nature, a search incident to arrest is typically narrower than a protective search (in sense 2), confined to an area within reach of the arrested person and perhaps companions.  Cf. protective search.

shakedown search (1952) A usually unannounced and warrantless search for illicit or contraband material (such as weapons or drugs) in a prisoner’s cell <no weapons were found during the shakedown>. — Often shortened to shakedown.

strip search (1955) A search of a suspect whose clothes have been removed, the purpose usually being to find any contraband the person might be hiding.

unreasonable search (18c) A search conducted without probable cause or other considerations that would make it legally permissible. — aka illegal search.

visual body-cavity search (1980) A strip search in which, without touching, a law-enforcement officer closely inspects a person’s orifices.— aka visual body-cavity inspection.  Cf. manual body-cavity search.

voluntary search (1936) A search in which no duress or coercion has been applied to obtain the defendant’s consent.  See consent search.


 zone search – A search of a crime scene (such as the scene of a fire or explosion) by dividing it up into specific sectors. — aka sector search.

2. An examination of public documents or records for information; especially, TITLE SEARCH.

3. Int’l law. The wartime process of boarding and examining the contents of a merchant vessel for contraband.  *  A number of treaties regulate the manner in which the search must be conducted.  See RIGHT OF SEARCH.


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

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

[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]: Charles H. Whitebread, Criminal Procedure 5 12.02, at 227 (1980).

[4]: 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


[5]: 68 Am. Jur. 2d Searches and Seizures § 44, at 674 (1993).


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