Law: Searching Cars

Court gives police more power

The trouble started back in Prohibition. Two bootleggers were stopped in their car by federal agents, who ripped out the rumble-seat upholstery and found 68 bottles of gin and whisky. The officers had obtained no warrant allowing the search, but in a 1925 decision, the Supreme Court declared that because cars were mobile, warrantless searches were legal if police had probable cause to believe that contraband was in the vehicle. Ever since, court majorities have been swerving from side to side, trying to define the extent of that exception to the Fourth Amendment's search and seizure rules....

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