Professor Wes Oliver Addresses the Evolution of Search and Seizure Laws
Web Editor - Published: April 28, 2008

Professor Wes Oliver spoke to fellow members of the Harrisburg faculty about his current research on Thursday April 24th as part of on-going faculty development efforts. He discussed the evolution of the search and seizure procedure from the early 1800s to its more modern form.

Oliver argued that by the mid-nineteenth century, probable cause had become nothing more than a pleading requirement, if indeed it had ever been anything more than this.  Victims of crimes in the mid-nineteenth century merely asserted that they had probable cause to believe, and did believe, that the search would produce evidence of a crime.  Nineteenth-century prohibition, adopted in most northern and mid-western states, required complainants seeking search warrants to provide the factual foundation for suspecting that the requested search would produce evidence of a crime.  Victims were, however, no longer required swear under oath that a crime had been committed as prohibition had created a victimless crime.  The requirements for liquor searches gradually became the standard for all searches, transforming criminal investigations from a private system initiated by victims to a public system initiated by the police.  The research Professor Oliver discussed is part of his forthcoming book entitled The Rise and Fall of the New York Police 1850-1933.