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United States Constitutional Law

Fourth Amendment - Search & Seizure

Fourth Amendment Search & Seizure

In this example, a motorist was arrested and convicted of drug possession with intent to sell, after a large amount of marijuana was discovered in his car when he was pulled over for a missing headlight. The motorist is challenging the conviction, on the basis that the search of his car, during a routine traffic stop, was unreasonable, and therefore violated the Fourth Amendment.


To begin your research, you will want to familiarize yourself with the Fourth Amendment, following the same steps outlined in the previous example.

  • Consult one of the treatises, listed in this guide and check the index for entries on Fourth Amendment and Search and Seizure. Westlaw also has two relevant databases that focus on this topic, which you may want to consult. These databases are: Searches & Seizures, Arrests and Confessions and Warrantless Search Law Deskbook.
  • You could also search by subject in Gould Law Library’s Catalog for a book on the Fourth Amendment. For example, if you search by subject: United States -- Constitution. 4th Amendment, you will find the following book:
  • You also can conduct an advanced search for a law review article on Hein Online. If you choose “constitutional law” as your subject and limit the dates to between 1990 and 2009 and enter the following query: “search and seizure” AND reasonableness, this will return many relevant results.
  • Next you’ll want to search either Westlaw or Lexis to find cases on point. You can utilize the same query you used for this topic on Hein Online.
  • Finally, for further constitutional law research, you may want to consult the authoritative websites and online guides provided in this guide. The membership organizations listed are another useful resource if you would like to further pursue this field of law.