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Sturm College of Law


Fourth Amendment, Warrants, Oath, Evidence, Originalism, Legal History, Criminal Procedure, Criminal Law, Police Reform


The Fourth Amendment requires that warrants be supported by “Oath or affirmation.” Under current doctrine, a police officer may swear the oath to obtain a warrant merely by repeating the account of an informant. This Article shows, however, that the Fourth Amendment, as originally understood, required that the real accuser with personal knowledge swear the oath.

That real-accuser requirement persisted for nearly two centuries. Almost all federal courts and most state courts from 1850 to 1960 held that the oath, by its very nature, required a witness with personal knowledge. Only in 1960 did the Supreme Court hold in Jones v. United States that a warrant could rely upon hearsay. Jones radically altered criminal investigations. But the decision rested entirely on policy preferences, ignoring text, original meaning, and rich contrary precedent.

This Article argues that we should return to the original understanding that the oath requirement bans thirdhand accounts. Remarkably, this is the first comprehensive study to consider whether the oath requires personal knowledge.

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Publication Statement

Reprinted with permission from the Stanford Law Review at 74 Stan. L. Rev. 603 (2022). For information visit:

Rights Holder

Laurent Sacharoff


Received from author

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English (eng)


84 pgs

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598 KB

Publication Title

Stanford Law Review

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