Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Jennifer Groscup

Reader 2

Jennifer Ma

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Rights Information

© 2015 Rebecca M. Gold


The United States Constitution provides its citizens protection from unreasonable searches and seizures from government officials, including police officers, through the Fourth Amendment. This Amendment applies to searches that violate a reasonable expectation of privacy. However, the Fourth Amendment does not protect citizens when they consent to a search voluntarily. It is necessary to determine whether or not a search is voluntary by looking at a variety of factors. Although an infinite number of factors can be considered to make this determination, race of both the police officer and of the person being searched should be considered, due to societal factors and racial stereotypes leading to intimidation factors. Participants (N=575) read a vignette about a situation in which a bus passenger was asked to consent to a search. The races of the police officer and the passenger were manipulated in a vignette (White, Latino, Black). Participants then answered a series of questions about privacy expectations and consenting to the search. The results suggested that race of police officers and recipients of search requests affects how search requests perceive the search, indicating that voluntariness of consenting to a search may also have some basis in race.