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Copyright (c) 1971 Tennessee Law Review Association, Inc.
Tennessee Law Review

ARTICLE: Requisite Particularity in Search Warrant Authorizations*

* This article is an amplification of a portion of a three-volume treatise, tentatively titled CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS OF THE ACCUSED, to be published by the Lawyers Cooperative Publishing Company. All rights are reserved by the author.

Summer, 1971

38 Tenn. L. Rev. 496


Joseph G. Cook**


While the generalized language of the fourth amendment has resulted in varied permutations of constitutional reasonableness, 1 in one respect the standard is quite precise: Once probable cause is established to justify the issuance of a search warrant, the warrant must particularly describe "the place to be searched, and the person or things to be seized." 2 The historical motivation for this constitutional mandate was a fear of "general warrants", giving the bearer an unlimited authority to search and seize. 3 The present article is concerned with several aspects of this requirement of particularity. First, attention will be directed to problems regarding the description of the place to be searched. Second, consideration will be given to the itemization of the objects to be seized, and the possibility of seizing additional items not enumerated. Finally, the unique problems presented by the application of this language of the fourth amendment to electronic eavesdropping will be explored. 4


The leading decision concerning the sufficiency of the description of the place to be searched is Steele v. United States 5 where the affidavit referred to a "garage located in the building at 611 West Forty-Sixth Street," and requested authority "to search said building at the above address, any building or rooms connected or used in connection with said garage, the basement or subcellar beneath the same." The Court held that the warrant clearly authorized the officer to search the entire building, including ...
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