Personal Blog of Atty. Charizma Cortez-Catague C.P.A., R.E.A., R.E.B.

Distinctions between Warrantless Search and Reasonable Search

Marcelo G. Saluday versus People of the Philippines; G.R. No. 215305

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The Supreme Court said:

A reasonable search arises from a reduced expectation of privacy, for which reason Section 2, Article III of the Constitution finds no application. In contrast, a warrantless search is presumably an ‘‘unreasonable search”, but for reasons of practicality, a search warrant can be dispensed with.

Saluday v. People (G.R. No. 215305)

In the case of Marcelo G. Saluday versus People of the Philippines, the Supreme Court held that an inspection of a public transport bus is a reasonable search, which is beyond the ambit of the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. Thus, it does not violate the constitutional rights of the passengers despite the absence of a search warrant. It includes the bus inspections conducted at police and military checkpoints.

Applicability of Section 2, Article III of the Constitution

The Supreme Court explained:

X x x the constitutional guarantee is not a blanket prohibition. Rather, it operates against “unreasonable” searches and seizures only. Conversely, when a search is “reasonable”, Section 2, Article III of the Constitution does not apply.

Quoting a U.S. Supreme Court Decision, the Court said:

The prohibition of unreasonable search and seizure ultimately stems from a person’s right to privacy. Hence, only when the State intrudes into a person’s expectation of privacy, which society regards as reasonable, is the Fourth Amendment triggered. Conversely, where a person does not have an expectation of privacy or one’s expectation of privacy is not reasonable to society, the alleged State intrusion is not a “search” within the protection of the Fourth Amendment.

Distinctions between Reasonable Search and Warrantless Search

The Supreme Court clarified that a reasonable search and a warrantless search are distinct from each other and mutually exclusive. Although both State intrusions are valid even without a warrant, the underlying reasons for the absence of a warrant are different. A reasonable search arises from a reduced expectation of privacy, for which reason Section 2, Article III of the Constitution finds no application. In contrast, a warrantless search is presumably an ‘‘unreasonable search”, but for reasons of practicality, a search warrant may be dispensed with.

A reasonable search , on one hand, covers searches done at airports, seaports, bus terminals, malls, and similar public places. A warrantless search, on the other, includes search incidental to a lawful arrest, search of evidence in plain view, consented search, and extensive search of a private moving vehicle.

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