Teen House Party Search

In order to teach the Fourth Amendment “knock and announce” decision of the Supreme Court in 2006, the creators of this simulation decided to make a fictional house party scenario that walked the user through the steps of the decision.  

This in-class or in-court activity is a simulation of a motion hearing and witness examinations stemming from a search at a fictional high school house party. The simulation is presented in-depth and online documents provide facts about the scenario, motions, and other materials, such as jury instructions and recommended scripts for witnesses.

An additional link to a discussion of the real related Supreme Court case of Hudson v. Michigan adds context.

This simulation focuses on the ruling the Supreme Court used in Hudson v. Michigan: that the harm done by suppressing the evidence gathered in this kind of "knock and announce" scenario outweighs the benefits of admitting it.  The "House Party Scenario" section is a succinct summary of the case and the "Background" section sets out a number of issues raised by the case, and arguments "pro" and "con."  The "Witness Stand Script" section outlines what happens in the courtroom during questioning of three witnesses.

As instructions for this fictional case lay out: "there will be a brief motion hearing argued by two volunteer attorneys on the admissibility of the evidence. If there is not time for this demonstration, the affidavits provided will be reviewed quickly for the students by a lawyer. The witness examination role play will be presided over by a judge in a courtroom. The student jury will deliberate and deliver a verdict during the event."

These components of the case get the audience involved, present relevant historical information, require critical thinking, help students better understand court proceedings, and are easy for judges, attorneys and teachers to follow.  

suggested timeline is provided for a 6th Amendment exercise on the same uscourts.gov site (nearly 3 hours, but with plenty of room for compression) that could be adapted for use in this case.

Also on this uscourts.gov site a second Fourth Amendment scenario, Cell Phone Surveillance, focuses on the Katz reasonable expectations of privacy test in the context of a cell phone conversation made in public.

This simulation is not intended for an individual to "read," rather the lesson is structured so that the material can be discussed and the arguments acted out.   Students are offered several opportunities to participate, which can get them excited about the issues and make them more attentive to the subject.

This simulation needs preparation. A judge or teacher would have to assign parts and have students do all the background reading and be familiar with their roles before they are thrown into it. This may inhibit the resource from being able to be used in a “court learning” program, but would be easy to manage in a classroom setting.  Judges could add particular value in explaining the case law to a mock trial team.

A additional weakness — which is inherent in the mock trial style (that is also its primary strength) — is that it requires an actively engaged audience and moderator to succeed.

The uscourts.gov website also includes a section on the Fifth Amendment. The 5th Amendment section focuses on whether a person is “in custody” for purposes of considering the privilege against self-incrimination and when the privilege attaches.  The resource Miranda and You  gives a fictional scenario that applies J.D.B. v. North Carolina to People v. Brandon Salinger.  

The Fifth Amendment materials provide six background cases and the decisions rendered, and pose questions for the students to consider.   The material is dry and quite difficult, and unless a moderator is very skilled at the Socratic method, and the students have taken time in advance to carefully review the cases for distinctions, participation is likely to be limited. 

This teaching resource for dealing with the Fourth Amendment is suited to a sophisticated high school or adult audience.  The materials and demands for involvement would likely be above the abilities of primary or middle school audiences.

  1. An Act of Courage: The Arrest Records of Rosa Parks  Lesson Plan from the National Archives (M, H)
  2. Balancing Free Speech and Fair Trial  Lesson Plan from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (H)
  3. Courts in the Classroom  Videos from the Judicial Council of California and the Administrative Office (P, M, H)
  4. Dialogue on Youth and Justice  Lesson Plan from the American Bar Association (H, A)  
  5. Interactive Guide to the Sixth Amendment  Interactive document from the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics (M, H)
  6. Teen House Party Search  Lesson Plan from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (H, A)

Additional Recommended Resources Off-Site Links

  1. A Constitutional Timeline
    • Multi-aged audience timeline that highlights key dates in history of Constitution, with links to text, audio and video clips. From National Constitution Center's Constitution Day site. 
  2. Interactive Constitution
    • Multi-aged audience site that enables users to search Constitution by keyword or topic, with access to explanatory materials throughout. From National Constitution Center.   
  3. The Annenberg Guide to the United States Constitution
    • Multi-aged audience site that lists the text of each section of every article in the Constitution, and provides explanation of what the text means in plain language.  From the Leonore Annenberg Institute of Civics. 
  4. Understanding the Federal Courts
    • Multi-aged online textbook-type document that includes sections on Article III, the Federal Court system and the geographical boundaries of the Courts of Appeal and the District Courts, the code of conduct for judges, juror qualifications, exemptions and terms of service, as well as categories of bankruptcy cases.  From the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts.