An Economic Understanding of Search and Seizure Law

57 Pages Posted: 21 Jul 2015 Last revised: 13 Mar 2018

Orin S. Kerr

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Date Written: February 1, 2016

Abstract

This Article uses economic concepts to understand search and seizure law, the law governing government investigations that is most often associated with the Fourth Amendment. It explains search and seizure law as a way to increase the efficiency of law enforcement by accounting for external costs of investigations. The police often discount negative externalities caused by their work. Search and seizure law responds by prohibiting investigative steps when external costs are excessive and not likely to be justified by corresponding public benefits. The result channels government resources into welfare-enhancing investigative paths instead of welfare-reducing steps that would occur absent legal regulation. This perspective on search and seizure law is descriptively helpful, it provides a useful analytical language to describe the role of different Fourth Amendment doctrines, and it facilitates fresh normative insights about recurring debates in Fourth Amendment law.

Keywords: Fourth Amendment, searches, seizures, law and economics

JEL Classification: K42

Suggested Citation

Kerr, Orin S., An Economic Understanding of Search and Seizure Law (February 1, 2016). 164 University of Pennsylvania Law Review 591 (2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2633841

Orin S. Kerr (Contact Author)

University of Southern California Gould School of Law ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

HOME PAGE: http://gould.usc.edu/faculty/?id=73523

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