Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date

2010

Center/Program

Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought

Abstract

Randomized checkpoint searches are generally taken to be the exact antitheses of reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment. In the eyes of most jurists, checkpoint searches violate the central requirement of valid Fourth Amendment searches – namely, individualized suspicion. We disagree. In this article, we contend that randomized searches should form the very lodestar of a reasonable search. The fact is that the notion of “individualized” suspicion is misleading; most suspicion in the modern policing context is group-based and not individual specific. Randomized searches by definition are accompanied by a certain level of suspicion. The constitutional issue, we maintain, should not turn on the question of suspicion-based versus suspicionless police searches, but on the level of suspicion that attaches to any search program and on the evenhandedness of the program. In essence, we argue for a new paradigm of randomized encounters that satisfy a base level of suspicion and that will provide the benefits of both privacy-protection (by ensuring a minimum level of suspicion) and evenhandedness (by cabining police discretion), the very values we wish to protect through the Fourth Amendment.

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