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Three Categories of Searches

Full Search

Full search is done for the purpose of gathering criminal employing the full search, the officers/agents have to adhere to the Fourth Amendment in providing a search warrant or any exception to the requirement of the warrant. The exceptions are based on the circumstances that force the agents not to seek for a warrant because of the impracticality of obtaining and presenting a warrant (Kanovitz, 2012). The reasons for obtaining a search warrant include crime is been committed, the existence of objects associated with the crime and evidence would be found if the place is searched. In a white-collar criminal offense, an officer or agent obtains a search warrant and proceeds to the offices of the culprits and impounds different components including computers and papers. The purpose is to collect information to be used for prosecution purposes.

Limited Weapons Search

A limited search for weapons is a search targeting the outer clothing but also extends to those regions that may be within the control of the suspect and pose a danger to the agent or officer. Most agents or officers are taught to search/frisk via a “pat down” of the suspect’s clothing. The justification for the limited weapons search is premised on the suspicion that an individual is armed and dangerous. The important term in the entire process is “reasonable suspicion.” It is imperative to differentiate between “stopping” and “frisking,” and individual since an agent or officer cannot stop anybody and start frisking (Kanovitz, 2012). Thus, the requirement is reasonable suspicion and the suspect is dangerous and armed. It is also important to note that all armed individuals are not dangerous since there are situations in which individuals are allowed to carry guns while at times, the individuals may contain unconventional and conventional weapons such as flashlights, pens, and pocketknives. An example in the field is when an officer pats an individual and feels a small box in the front pocket. The officer seizes the box and finds out it contains cigarettes. The agent opens the box and checks whether there are dangerous weapons such as derringer handgun or a small knife is concealed inside. If the officer does not find anything dangerous, the officer allows the individual to proceed.

Inventory Search

An inventory search is commonly done when the car is impounded. The officer or agent can decide to search the car for the purpose of documenting its contents. The search may not necessary be conducted for the purpose of looking for criminal evidence (Kanovitz, 2012). The aim of the searches is to protect the contents of the owners, to protect the agents or officers from disputes and claims over stolen or lost property and protecting the agent/officer from danger arising from the materials or contents of the car. The validity of inventory search lies on the under standardized police procedures. The inventory search should remain within the definitions. For example, an officer may perform a search and views a videotape of the defendant performing unethical and immoral acts. The entire process is unconstitutional and invalid since the viewing of the tape was not integral based on the definitions or standards of an inventory search.


Kanovitz, J. (2012). Constitutional law. London: Routledge Publishers.