Honors College

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Publication Date



Since their creation, automobiles have become a central facet of the American culture and psyche. As status symbols and modes of transportation their importance cannot be overstated. Americans love their cars, and the average citizen believes that he or she has legitimate privacy interests in his or her vehicle. But is this the case? For decades, The Court has struggled to balance 4th Amendment privacy rights with effective police procedure, and has thus handed down dozens of rulings on the topic, many of which often seem disparate and contradictory. In the face of such confusion, the Court’s answer has almost always been to allow an increasing amount of discretion to police officers. This study seeks to find out how well college students on the University of Maine campus know both police powers of search and seizure as well as what their rights are in vehicular search and seizure situations. A questionnaire was distributed throughout Greek life on the University of Maine campus, the results of which were compiled and analyzed in an endeavor to gain insight into how well students understand their rights. Through this we can gain insight as to how much young people know about the rights and responsibilities that come with obtaining their license. This question is of more than passing importance in light of current Supreme Court rulings trending toward expansion of police power. Finally, I will assess the question of significance: How and to what extent should public education inform individuals of their rights?