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Seizure

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Overview Edit

In general, under the Fourth Amendment, a seizure may be of an individual or of property.[1] The U.S. Supreme Court has described a seizure of property as “some meaningful interference with an individual’s possessory interests in that property.”[2] The Court has also characterized the interception of intangible communications as a seizure.[3]

An individual is “seized” when a government official makes a person reasonably believe that he or she is not at liberty to ignore the government’s presence and go about his business in view of all the circumstances surrounding the incident.[4] Additionally, a refusal to cooperate, without more, does not furnish the minimal level of objective justification needed for a detention or seizure.[5]

A seizure of a person, therefore, can include full arrests,[6] investigatory detentions, checkpoint stops for citizenship inquiries, and detentions of a person against his will. The Supreme Court has identified a number of factors that might suggest that a seizure has occurred, including (1) the intimidating presence or movement of officers; (2) the display of weapons; (3) the application of physical force; and (4) the authoritative tone of voice used by officers.[7]

Until 1967, the courts did not allow the seizure of “mere evidence” (i.e., things that were not themselves “the fruits or instrumentalities of crime” or contraband). But it is now well established that blood, semen, fingerprints, hair, handwriting samples, and other such evidence can be taken. Moreover, such seizures have been held not to violate the Fourth Amendment or other constitutional prohibitions against forced self-incrimination, if their disclosure is otherwise reasonable.

References Edit

  1. A seizure can involve intangible as well as tangible things. Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 485-86 (1963) (full-text).
  2. Sodal v. Cook County, 506 U.S. 56, 61 (1992) (full-text), quoting United States v. Jacobsen, 466 U.S. 109, 113 (1984) (full-text).
  3. See Berger v. New York, 388 U.S. 41, 59-60 (1967) (full-text).
  4. Florida v. Bostick, 501 U.S. 429, 437 (1991) (full-text), citing Michigan v. Chesternut, 486 U.S. 567, 573 (1988) (full-text).
  5. Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Delgado, 466 U.S. 210, 216 (1984) (full-text).
  6. Arrests inside a private residence generally require a warrant (Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573 (1980) (full-text)), while arrests outside the home need only be supported by probable cause, United States v. Watson, 423 U.S. 411 (1976) (full-text).
  7. See United States v. Drayton, 536 U.S. 194 (2002) (full-text); see also United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544, 554 (1980) (full-text).

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