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Crime File: Search and Seizure

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In this video cassette, number 19 in the Crime File series, three dramatized scenarios of police search and seizure tactics are critiqued as to their legality by a panel consisting of a police officer, a U.S. attorney, and a public defender.
Each scenario unfolds in stages, and the panel members comment on the legality of the police behavior in each stage. The first scenario involves a police stop of a vehicle observed to have no license plate, the police observation of shotgun shells on the car seat, a frisk of the driver, an arrest, the search of a briefcase in the car to find a handgun, and the opening of the car trunk. The second scenario involves the police stop of two persons reported by a citizen to look suspicious, the stop and arrest of two persons answering the description of two burglars, a 'pat down' that reveals drugs, and the search of a briefcase that reveals a gun. The third scenario involves the police answering a call to an apartment, where a woman answers the door and complains that the male friend in the apartment had threatened her with a gun. The police frisk the man, find drugs in his coat, make an arrest, and then search the apartment to find a handgun in the bedroom. The panelists agree that a warrantless search of a person is reasonable if there is cause to believe the person has committed a crime or is concealing a weapon. Further, they agree that after an arrest, a warrantless search may be conducted of the immediate vicinity and property at the arrest locality. The panelists often disagree on whether these conditions were met in the dramatized scenarios.