The Supreme Court in recent years has aggressively pursued restrictions on a person's Constitutional protections from unreasonable searches and seizures. Perhaps no better example exists of the radically changing fourth amendment analysis than the automobile exception to the warrant requirement This exception allows a law enforcement official with probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime is hidden in a vehicle to search that vehicle without obtaining a search warrant This Article explores the genesis and unchecked growth of the automobile exception from a necessary outgrowth of the exigencies of protecting police officers and preventing tampering with evidence, to a confusing morass of interchangeably applied and contradictory rationales and unworkable, "bright-line" rules. In examining three 1985 Supreme Court cases, this Article identifies the contradictions and two highly disturbing trends in fourth amendment analysis: that the proponent of warrant protections has the burden of proving their benefit over law enforcement costs, and, the possible first steps towards a general, public place exception to the warrant requirement.


Automobile Exception

Publication Date


Document Type


Place of Original Publication

Case Western Reserve Law Review

Publication Information

36 Case Western Reserve Law Review 375 (1985-1986)


COinS Lewis R. Katz Faculty Bio