Zurcher v. Stanford Daily

436 U.S. 547



The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution is not a barrier to warrants to search property on which there is probable cause to believe that fruits, instrumentalities, or evidence of crime is located, whether or not the owner or possessor of the premises to be searched is himself reasonably suspected of complicity in the crime being investigated. 


Plaintiffs applied for an were awarded a search warrant for defendant's premises, after defendant published a story regarding criminal activity and clashes with police. Defendant sued for injunctive relief, on the grounds that the search warrant violated defendant's fourth and first amendment rights, because plaintiff could not search defendant's premises without suspecting defendant of committing some kind of crime. Lower court granted the defendant's motion for injunctive relief, and plaintiff appealed.


Did the plaintiffs' search of defendant's premises violate the defendant's Fourth or First amendment rights.




In reversing the lower court's ruling, the Supreme Court held that it was untenable to conclude that property could not be searched unless its occupant was reasonably suspected of a crime and subject to arrest. The court declined to reinterpret the Fourth Amendment to impose a general constitutional barrier against warrants to search newspaper premises, to require resort to subpoenas as a general rule, or to demand prior notice and hearing in connection with the issuance of search warrants. It rejected the reasons given by the lower court for holding that the search for photographs was unreasonable within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment and in violation of the First Amendment.

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