Dodging a Bullet, but Opening Old Wounds in Fourth Amendment Jurisprudence

Ronald J. Bacigal, University of Richmond


The Court began its opinion in Winston by "putting to one side the procedural protections of the warrant requirement. " The parties agreed that the defendant had received "a full measure of procedural protections"and that the state had met the "ordinary" standard of probable cause for a search. "Notwithstanding the existence of probable cause" and the state's full compliance with the procedures required by the warrant clause, the Court found that the reasonableness clause of the fourth amendment demands "a more substantial justification" than probable cause. The Court viewed this higher level of justification as a substantive requirement of the reasonableness clause-a requirement unrelated to the procedural standards of the warrant clause.Thus, the Court refused to permit the state to invade a suspect's body in a quest for incriminating evidence. This recognition of the substantive values contained within the reasonableness clause will focus new attention upon the longstanding controversy over the relationship of the fourth amendment's two conjunctive clauses: Is the reasonableness clause a "blank check," which the Court may fill in with the substantive values it considers appropriate, or is constitutional reasonableness defined by the "bright-line" procedural requirements of the warrant clause?