Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


Duane A. Wilson

First Page



The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has taken the instant opportunity to write an essay on the law of search and seizure on the high seas. Applying Ramsey, the majority found authority for the Coast Guard action, either under section 89(a) or through the consent of the Panamanian Government. Although both conclusions are open to dispute, the major question arises from the court's analysis of the constitutionality of the Coast Guard action. While a firm resolution of the confusion engendered by previous conflicting Fifth Circuit decisions is certainly desirable, the instant court's resolution fails to provide necessary analytical clarity. Judge Tjoflat concluded that the fourth amendment should be applied less rigorously when the action in question occurs at sea rather than on land, and he delineated the search and seizure standard to be used for actions occurring at sea. This attempt is analytically inconsistent. On one hand the court applied Ramsey's two-part analysis utilizing a balancing test derived from land-based search and seizure law; on the other hand, the court substituted a more lenient test for the constitutionality of searches and seizures at sea.