A friend sent me this great example of the 4th amendment in action. The article, titled: “Yo quiero a search warrant: Lawyer succeeds in suppressing evidence found in taco” was originally published in the Missouri Lawyers Weekly.
It seems that Branson police were investigating a fight and were told that someone involved in the fight had gone to the Taco Bell. Police decided it was time to make a run for the border. When they arrived, they found Johnnie Hoover and a female companion were the only customers.
The officer asked Hoover if he had any drugs or weapons. At this point–the officer testified–Hoover “looked furtively at a taco lying on the table in front of him”.
Mr. Hoover’s lawyer explained that he was able to have the evidence thrown out on the grounds that the taco seemed unlikely to contain a deadly weapon. Nor did the officer have probable cause to search the taco on other grounds. [See Search warrants in MIssouri, Parts 1-4]
It sounds like the judge was dead on with that decision, the key being that a “furtive look” by itself is not going to be enough for the police to get into your taco. On the other hand, if the officer had sufficient grounds for a search of the taco, he most likely would not have needed a search warrant because the taco–being so “good to go”–might otherwise disappear in the meanwhile.