Crime Scene Searches and the Fourth Amendment

  • Michael M. Berlin, J.D., PhD
Keywords: Crime scene searches, Fourth Amedment


Crime scene investigation requires understanding and application of elements of criminal law, criminal procedure, constitutional law and evidence.  Legal requirements are derived from the U.S. and State Constitutions, federal and state statutory law, court rules and a combination of federal and state appellate court decisions.  This article focuses on issues related to the Fourth Amendment, exigent circumstances and crime scene searches.   The article begins with a brief discussion of the Fourth Amendment search and seizure warrant requirement rule and generally recognized exceptions to the rule.  I then focus on crime scene searches and the exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement rule.  Key U.S. Supreme Court decisions are interpreted and analyzed.  The parameters of exigent circumstances are explored.  Other subject matter and materials are considered to provide context and clarify fundamental legal principles which impact practical decisions concerning crime scene searches.  Differences in state law which may impact crime scene searches are also addressed.  I conclude with recommendations to facilitate improved compliance with the Fourth Amendment as it relates to crime scenes.

Investigative Articles