Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Search Definition:

A probing exploration for something that is concealed or hidden from the searcher.

Related Terms: Seizure, Search Warrant, Fourth Amendment, Strip Search, Arrest, Investigative Detention

In US v Marti, Justice Weinstein of the United States District Court (New York) wrote:

"A search is a probing exploration for something that is concealed or hidden from the searcher..."

In US v Strickland, Justice Wyche of the District Court of South Carolina used these words:

"A search implies some exploratory investigation. To observe that which is open and patent in either sunlight or artificial light is not a search."

Further, consider this from Justice Neese of the United States District Court (Tennessee) in the case of Willard Bigon Cook:

"A search implies invasion and quest, which in turn implies some sort of force, actual or constructive, much or little."

Distinction Between Search and Seizure

In Horton v California, Justice Stevens of the Supreme Court of the United States wrote:

"The right to security in person and property protected by the Fourth Amendment may be invaded in quite different ways by searches and seizures. A search compromises the individual interest in privacy; a seizure deprives the individual of dominion over his or her person or property."

These words are similar to those of Justice Brown of the same court in the 1906 case of Hale v. Henkel:

"[A] search ... ordinarily implies a quest by an officer of the law, and a seizure contemplates a forcible dispossession of the owner...."

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