66 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 556 (1997-1998)
Car Wars: The Fourth Amendment's Death on the Highway

handle is hein.journals/gwlr66 and id is 564 raw text is: Essay
Car Wars: The Fourth Amendment's
Death on the Highway
David A. Harris*
Introduction
The Supreme Court's Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, as tattered and
full of holes as a beggar's winter coat, calls into question whether the remain-
ing protection it offers to citizens against government searches and seizures
has any value. In no area is this question presented more sharply than in
cases involving cars, their drivers, and their passengers. Indeed, it is no exag-
geration to say that in cases involving cars, the Fourth Amendment is all but
dead.
In its last two Terms alone, the Court has increased police discretion
over cars and their drivers in three different cases. In Whren v. United
States,' the Court resolved a split among the federal circuits by ruling that
any time a police officer sees a traffic violation, the officer has probable cause
and may stop the vehicle.2 The rule applies even if no reasonable officer
would have made the stop to enforce the traffic laws, and even if the stop was
only a pretext to enable the officer to investigate a mere hunch or intuition.3
In Ohio v. Robinette,4 the Court said that when the police stop a driver and
have decided to release him, they need not precede a request for consent to
* Eugene N. Balk Professor of Law and Values, University of Toledo College of Law.
J.D. 1983, Yale Law School; LL.M. 1988 (Trial Advocacy), Georgetown. My thanks to John A.
Barrett, Jr., Daniel Steinbock, and Rebecca Zeitlow for their help with earlier drafts, and to
Michael Morgan for research assistance.
1 116 S. Ct. 1769 (1996).
2 See id. at 1776-77.
3 See id. at 1774-75; see also infra notes 20-23 and accompanying text.
4 117 S. Ct. 417 (1996).
March 1998 Vol. 66 No. 3

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