Vawrinek, Jeffrey J.
December 1981
Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology;Winter1981, Vol. 72 Issue 4, p1246
Academic Journal
The article examines the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Michigan v. Summers in which it undertook a major dismantling of the probable cause requirement of the fourth amendment. In Summers, the Court widened the gap between the once equivalent fourth amendment terms of reasonableness and probable cause. Previously, subject to two limited exceptions, a valid, hence, reasonable seizure could occur only when the officer had probable cause to believe that a felony had been committed by the person to be arrested. With Summers, the Court has shifted its reasonableness focus from the existence of probable cause to the intrusiveness of the detention. The U.S. Supreme Court, per Justice Stevens, reversed the Michigan Supreme Court in a six to three decision. It held that a valid search warrant implicitly authorized the detention of the occupants of the premises, without probable cause, while the search is conducted. Justice Stewart, joined in dissent by Justices Brennan and Marshall, disagreed, arguing that such detention is not reasonable for fourth amendment purposes. In Michigan v. Summers the Supreme Court has gone well beyond the spirit of the limited exceptions to the probable cause requirement. The Summers decision places the focus on the intrusiveness of the seizure, rather than the existence of probable cause.


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