Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



The recent widely discussed case of Harris v. United States further complicates that already complex phase of search and seizure which relates to the extent to which officers may search as an incident to a lawful arrest. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution provides: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon prob-able cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to he seized." It has long been recognized that the immunity afforded by this Amendment is only against unreasonable searches and seizures. The right to search the person of one lawfully arrested and seize weapons and evidences of the crime was established in the early common law of England, and has never been questioned in this country. Courts have generally extended the scope of this authority to include the "immediate premises"; however, interpretations of what is meant by this phrase have been widely disparate. The Supreme Court cases which have dealt with this matter have sanctioned a search of the entire premises wherein the arrest was effected, so long as these premises are within the control of the arrestee.