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The Indiana Law Library Blog

99 Problems and the Fourth Amendment

If you have heard Jay-Z’s song 99 Problems, you know it is about a true incident that occurred in 1994 when he was pulled over for a seemingly arbitrary traffic speed enforcement. The suggestion is that the cop’s use of traffic laws was a mere pretext for searching his car, as he fit the profile for a drug smuggler.

The song is pregnant with Fourth Amendment issues, particularly the question, “When can you use a traffic stop to search for drugs?” A lot can be gleaned from the lyrics, both truths and inaccuracies. It is perhaps no surprise then, that Jay-Z’s lyrics can be used to gain a better understanding of Criminal Law.

In a line-by-line analysis, Southwestern Law School Law Professor Caleb Mason (in his Saint Louis University Law Journal article, “Jay-Z’s 99 Problems, Verse 2: A Close Reading With Fourth Amendment Guidance for Cops and Perps”) offers a fantastic and enjoyable explanation of this area of law using the lyrics as a touchstone. For those of you who are interested in pop culture representations of criminal justice, you will love the examination given by this writer.

By Jen Kulka (Library Intern & Guest Blogger)



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