Fourth Amendment

Is It Really That Simple?: Circuits Split over Reasonable Suspicion Requirement for Visual Body-Cavity Searches of Arrestees

In Bell v. Wolfish, the United States Supreme Court upheld visual body-cavity strip searches on pretrial detainees but called for a balancing of privacy and security interests. For the three decades following Bell, courts routinely read in a reasonable suspicion requirement as part of that balance. That changed in 2008 when the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that the Fourth Amendment permits strip searches of all arrestees, regardless of whether there is any reasonable suspicion that an arrestee possesses contraband. In 2010, the United States Courts of Appeals for the Third and Ninth Circuits followed suit. In light of the recent split, the Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether the Fourth Amendment permits a jail to conduct a suspicionless strip search of every individual arrested for any minor offense regardless of the circumstances. This Comment recounts the context of Bell, traces the courts' previously uniform interpretation of that decision, and explores this emerging debate, ultimately concluding that institution-specific security concerns could be a factor worthy of great weight in the Bell balancing equation.

Peterson v. City of Forth Worth: The Fifth Circuit Demands More Than the Demanding Standard of Monell to Establish Municipal Liability under § 1983

Ultimately, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas concluded that while Peterson made a colorable claim for the excessive use of force against the individual officers, he failed to meet the rigorous standard necessary to impose municipal liability, and the court consequently dismissed his complaint under summary judgment. Affirming this decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that twenty-seven claims of excessive force did not amount to an official city policy permissive of excessive force and, thus, the city could not be liable. Peterson v. City of Fort Worth, 588 F.3d 838, 852 (5th Cir. 2009), cert. denied, 79 U.S.L.W. 3195 (U.S. Oct. 4, 2010) (No. 09-983).  

Could You? Should You? Florida v. J.L.: Danger Dicta, Drunken Bombs, and the Universe of Anonymity

Recently, the United States Supreme Court passed on a chance to consider the legitimacy of investigatory stops based on uncorroborated anonymous tips of drunk driving, preferring this issue continue to ferment in the lower courts. When facing this issue, some lower courts seize the opportunity to carve out a drunk-driving exception to the Fourth Amendment based on “danger dicta” found in Florida v. J.L. Other courts hold fast to the corroboration requirement for anonymous informants in Alabama v. White. This Comment considers whether both approaches fail to take full advantage of existing Fourth Amendment jurisprudence so that police can effectively manage the dangers posed by drunk drivers without further eroding Fourth Amendment protections. Rather than polarize informants as either known or anonymous, there is a third classification of informants that are just distinct enough to provide reasonable suspicion for investigatory stops. As Justice Kennedy's concurring opinion in J.L. argued, these quasi-known/quasi-anonymous informants “might be anonymous in some sense yet have certain other features, either supporting reliability or narrowing the likely class of informants, so that the tip does provide the lawful basis for some police action.”