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Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218 (1973)


During the course of a consent search of a car that had been stopped by officers for traffic violations, evidence was discovered that was used to convict respondent of unlawfully possessing a check. In a habeas corpus proceeding, the Court of Appeals, reversing the District Court, held that the prosecution had failed to prove that consent to the search had been made with the understanding that it could freely be withheld.

Held: When the subject of a search is not in custody and the State would justify a search on the basis of his consent, the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments require that it demonstrate that the consent was in fact, voluntary; voluntariness is to be determined from the totality of the surrounding circumstances. While knowledge of a right to refuse consent is a factor to be taken into account, the State need not prove that the one giving permission to search knew that he had a right to withhold his consent. Pp.  412 U. S. 223-249.

448 F.2d 699, reversed.

STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p.  412 U. S. 249. POWELL, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined, post, p.  412 U. S. 250. DOUGLAS, J., post, p.  412 U. S. 275, BRENNAN, J., post, p.  412 U. S. 276, and MARSHALL, J., post, p.  412 U. S. 277, filed dissenting opinions. 

Page 412 U. S. 219