Race and the Fourth Amendment

Devon W. Carbado

The Honorable Harry Pregerson Professor of Law and Associate Vice Chancellor,
BruinX, the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion,
University of California, Los Angeles
Reforming Criminal Justice Vol. 2

This chapter employs “real life” scenarios to highlight how Fourth Amendment law works on the ground. Few people, including lawyers, journalists, legislators, educators, and community organizers, understand the enormously important role Fourth Amendment law plays in enabling the very thing it ought to prevent: racial profiling and police violence. This chapter does not tell the full story of Fourth Amendment law along the preceding lines. Rather, my purpose here is to zone in on the specific body of Fourth Amendment law that determines whether the Fourth Amendment will even apply to the police conduct in question or whether that conduct will escape Fourth Amendment scrutiny altogether. I have two hopes for the chapter. One is that, whatever your views about policing, you will leave the chapter feeling like you have had a “teachable moment” about the range of investigation tactics police officers can employ without triggering the Fourth Amendment. My second hope is that you will employ the chapter as a tool to educate others in the conduct of the work you do, whether that work takes the form of “street law” sessions, public forums, know-your-rights campaigns, legislative decision making, media education projects, community organizing, opeds, classroom teaching, or conversations with friends and family.