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Illinois v. Lafayette, 462 U.S. 640 (1983)


After respondent was arrested for disturbing the peace, he was taken to the police station. There, without obtaining a warrant and in the process of booking him and inventorying his possessions, the police removed the contents of a shoulder bag respondent had been carrying, and found amphetamine pills. Respondent was subsequently charged with violating the Illinois Controlled Substances Act, and, at a pretrial hearing, the trial court ordered suppression of the pills. The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed, holding that the shoulder bag search did not constitute a valid search incident to a lawful arrest or a valid inventory search of respondent’s belongings.

Held: The search of respondent’s shoulder bag was a valid inventory search. Pp.  462 U. S. 643-648.

(a) Consistent with the Fourth Amendment, it is reasonable for police to search the personal effects of a person under lawful arrest as part of the routine administrative procedure at a police station incident to booking and jailing the suspect. The justification for such searches does not rest on probable cause, and hence the absence of a warrant is immaterial to the reasonableness of the search. Here, every consideration of orderly police administration — protection of a suspect’s property, deterrence of false claims of theft against the police, security, and identification of the suspect — benefiting both the police and the public points toward the appropriateness of the examination of respondent’s shoulder bag. Pp.  462 U. S. 643-647.

(b) The fact that the protection of the public and of respondent’s property might have been achieved by less intrusive means does not, in itself, render the search unreasonable. Even if some less intrusive means existed, it would be unreasonable to expect police officers in the everyday course of business to make fine and subtle distinctions in deciding which containers or items may be searched, and which must be sealed without examination as a unit. Pp.  462 U. S. 647-648.

99 Ill.App.3d 830, 425 N.E.2d 1383, reversed and remanded.

BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, REHNQUIST, STEVENS, and O’CONNOR, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p.  462 U. S. 649

Page 462 U. S. 641