Author granted license

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International

Document Type


Publication Date





Harvard Law Review Association




The traditional story of Fourth Amendment search and seizure doctrine involves a complex compromise between public safety and the constitutional right to personal liberty. Although the choice of viewpoint is often left out of the story, much also depends on whose perspective — police officers’ or civilians’ — a judge employs for search and seizure determinations. The chosen perspective circumscribes the types of facts that a judge considers in these evaluations. In United States v. Washington, the Ninth Circuit held that the district court should have suppressed evidence obtained through a vehicle search because the consent was not voluntary, or, even if it were voluntary, because the evidence was the fruit of an illegal seizure. In its search and seizure analyses, the panel considered the tension that earlier police shootings had caused between police and the local black community. By including racialized community-police tension in its reasoning, the Ninth Circuit took a subtle but significant step toward aligning its Fourth Amendment analysis with the underlying principles of search and seizure standards, while also furthering the privacy and dignity interests that the Amendment seeks to protect.

Find on SSRN



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.