Recent Case, Ninth Circuit Considers Community's Racial Tension with Police in Finding Illegal Seizure and Lack of Voluntary Consent. — United States V. Washington, 490 F.3d 765 (9th Cir. 2007)
8 Pages Posted: 11 Apr 2017
Date Written: April 1, 2008
The traditional story of Fourth Amendment search and seizure doctrine involves a complex compromise between public safety and the constitutional right to personal liberty. Although the choice of viewpoint is often left out of the story, much also depends on whose perspective — police officers’ or civilians’ — a judge employs for search and seizure determinations. The chosen perspective circumscribes the types of facts that a judge considers in these evaluations. In United States v. Washington, the Ninth Circuit held that the district court should have suppressed evidence obtained through a vehicle search because the consent was not voluntary, or, even if it were voluntary, because the evidence was the fruit of an illegal seizure. In its search and seizure analyses, the panel considered the tension that earlier police shootings had caused between police and the local black community. By including racialized community-police tension in its reasoning, the Ninth Circuit took a subtle but significant step toward aligning its Fourth Amendment analysis with the underlying principles of search and seizure standards, while also furthering the privacy and dignity interests that the Amendment seeks to protect.
Keywords: fourth amendment, search, seizure, consent
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