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Florida v. Jimeno, 500 U.S. 248 (1991)


Having stopped respondent Jimeno’s car for a traffic infraction, police officer Trujillo, who had been following the car after overhearing Jimeno arranging what appeared to be a drug transaction, declared that he had reason to believe that Jimeno was carrying narcotics in the car, and asked permission to search it. Jimeno consented, and Trujillo found cocaine inside a folded paper bag on the car’s floorboard. Jimeno was charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine in violation of Florida law, but the state trial court granted his motion to suppress the cocaine on the ground that his consent to search the car did not carry with it specific consent to open the bag and examine its contents. The Florida District Court of Appeal and Supreme Court affirmed.

Held: A criminal suspect’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches is not violated when, after he gives police permission to search his car, they open a closed container found within the car that might reasonably hold the object of the search. The Amendment is satisfied when, under the circumstances, it is objectively reasonable for the police to believe that the scope of the suspect’s consent permitted them to open the particular container. Here, the authorization to search extended beyond the car’s interior surfaces to the bag, since Jimeno did not place any explicit limitation on the scope of the search, and was aware that Trujillo would be looking for narcotics in the car, and since a reasonable person may be expected to know that narcotics are generally carried in some form of container. There is no basis for adding to the Fourth Amendment’s basic test of objective reasonableness a requirement that, if police wish to search closed containers within a car, they must separately request permission to search each container. Pp.  500 U. S. 250-252.

564 So. 2d 1083 (Fla.1990), reversed and remanded.

REHNQUIST, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, BLACKMUN, O’CONNOR, SCALIA, KENNEDY, and SOUTER, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which STEVENS, J., joined, post,p.  500 U. S. 252. 

Page 500 U. S. 249