Legal Memorandum: Fourth Amendment Particularity Clause in US, AL

Issue: What is the standard for suppressing a motion when applying the Fourth Amendment’s particularity clause?

Area of Law: Constitutional Law, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Particularity clause; Motion to suppress
Jurisdiction: Alabama, Federal
Cited Cases: 367 U.S. 643; 580 So. 2d 53; 468 U.S. 897
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 04/01/2013

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

This constitutional guarantee is applicable to the States.  Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961).

The part of the Fourth Amendment applicable here is the “particularity” clause.  With respect to this provision, this Court has instructed that:

The Fourth Amendment requires that search warrants “particularly describ[e] the place to be searched.”  While accuracy in this description is clearly very important, [a]n erroneous description of premises to be searched does not necessarily render a warrant invalid.  [T]he “test for determining the sufficiency of the warrant description is whether the place to be searched is described with sufficient particularity to enable the executing officer to locate and identify the premises with reasonable effort, and whether there is any reasonable probability that another premise might be mistakenly searched.

State v. Spivey, 675 So. 2d 1335, 1337-38 (Ala. Crim. App. 1994) (quoting Grantham v. State, 580 So. 2d 53, 54–55 (Ala. Crim. App. 1991) (internal citations and punctuation omitted; emphasis added)).  See Sadie […]