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Utah v. Strieff, 579 U.S. (2016)



certiorari to the supreme court of utah

No. 14–1373. Argued February 22, 2016—Decided June 20, 2016

Narcotics detective Douglas Fackrell conducted surveillance on a South Salt Lake City residence based on an anonymous tip about drug activity. The number of people he observed making brief visits to the house over the course of a week made him suspicious that the occupants were dealing drugs. After observing respondent Edward Strieff leave the residence, Officer Fackrell detained Strieff at a nearby parking lot, identifying himself and asking Strieff what he was doing at the house. He then requested Strieff’s identification and relayed the information to a police dispatcher, who informed him that Strieff had an outstanding arrest warrant for a traffic violation. Officer Fackrell arrested Strieff, searched him, and found methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. Strieff moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that it was derived from an unlawful investigatory stop. The trial court denied the motion, and the Utah Court of Appeals affirmed. The Utah Supreme Court reversed, however, and ordered the evidence suppressed.

Held: The evidence Officer Fackrell seized incident to Strieff’s arrest is admissible based on an application of the attenuation factors from Brown v. Illinois, 422 U. S. 590 . In this case, there was no flagrant police misconduct. Therefore, Officer Fackrell’s discovery of a valid, pre-existing, and untainted arrest warrant attenuated the connection between the unconstitutional investigatory stop and the evidence seized incident to a lawful arrest. Pp. 4–10.

(a) As the primary judicial remedy for deterring Fourth Amendment violations, the exclusionary rule encompasses both the “primary evidence obtained as a direct result of an illegal search or seizure” and, relevant here, “evidence later discovered and found to be derivative of an illegality.”  Segura v. United States, 468 U. S. 796 . But to ensure that those deterrence benefits are not outweighed by the rule’s substantial social costs, there are several exceptions to the rule. One exception is the attenuation doctrine, which provides for admissibility when the connection between unconstitutional police conduct and the evidence is sufficiently remote or has been interrupted by some intervening circumstance. See Hudson v. Michigan, 547 U. S. 586 . Pp. 4–5.

(b) As a threshold matter, the attenuation doctrine is not limited to the defendant’s independent acts. The doctrine therefore applies here, where the intervening circumstance is the discovery of a valid, pre-existing, and untainted arrest warrant. Assuming, without deciding, that Officer Fackrell lacked reasonable suspicion to stop Strieff initially, the discovery of that arrest warrant attenuated the connection between the unlawful stop and the evidence seized from Strieff incident to his arrest. Pp. 5–10.

(1) Three factors articulated in Brown v. Illinois, 422 U. S. 590 , lead to this conclusion. The first, “temporal proximity” between the initially unlawful stop and the search, id., at 603, favors suppressing the evidence. Officer Fackrell discovered drug contraband on Strieff only minutes after the illegal stop. In contrast, the second factor, “the presence of intervening circumstances, id., at 603–604, strongly favors the State. The existence of a valid warrant, predating the investigation and entirely unconnected with the stop, favors finding sufficient attenuation between the unlawful conduct and the discovery of evidence. That warrant authorized Officer Fackrell to arrest Strieff, and once the arrest was authorized, his search of Strieff incident to that arrest was undisputedly lawful. The third factor, “the purpose and flagrancy of the official misconduct,” id., at 604, also strongly favors the State. Officer Fackrell was at most negligent, but his errors in judgment hardly rise to a purposeful or flagrant violation of Strieff’s Fourth Amendment rights. After the unlawful stop, his conduct was lawful, and there is no indication that the stop was part of any systemic or recurrent police misconduct. Pp. 6–9.

(2) Strieff’s counterarguments are unpersuasive. First, neither Officer Fackrell’s purpose nor the flagrancy of the violation rises to a level of misconduct warranting suppression. Officer Fackrell’s purpose was not to conduct a suspicionless fishing expedition but was to gather information about activity inside a house whose occupants were legitimately suspected of dealing drugs. Strieff conflates the standard for an illegal stop with the standard for flagrancy, which requires more than the mere absence of proper cause. Second, it is unlikely that the prevalence of outstanding warrants will lead to dragnet searches by police. Such misconduct would expose police to civil liability and, in any event, is already accounted for by Brown’s “purpose and flagrancy” factor. Pp. 9–10.

2015 UT 2, 357 P. 3d 532, reversed.

Thomas, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Kennedy, Breyer, and Alito, JJ., joined. Sotomayor, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Ginsburg, J., joined as to Parts I, II, and III. Kagan, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Ginsburg, J., joined.

United States v Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1 (1989)


Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents stopped respondent upon his arrival at Honolulu International Airport. The agents found 1,063 grams of cocaine in his carry-on luggage. When respondent was stopped, the agents knew, inter alia, that (1) he paid $2,100 for two round-trip plane tickets from a roll of $20 bills; (2) he traveled under a name that did not match the name under which his telephone number was listed; (3) his original destination was Miami, a source city for illicit drugs; (4) he stayed in Miami for only 48 hours, even though a round-trip flight from Honolulu to Miami takes 20 hours; (5) he appeared nervous during his trip; and (6) he checked none of his luggage. Respondent was indicted for possession with intent to distribute cocaine. The District Court denied his motion to suppress the evidence, finding that the stop was justified by a reasonable suspicion that he was engaged in criminal activity, as required by the Fourth Amendment. The Court of Appeals disagreed and reversed respondent’s conviction, applying a two-part test for determining reasonable suspicion. First, ruled the court, at least one fact describing “ongoing criminal activity” — such as the use of an alias or evasive movement through an airport — was always necessary to support a reasonable suspicion finding. Second, “probabilistic” facts describing “personal characteristics” of drug couriers — such as the cash payment for tickets, a short trip to a major source city for drugs, nervousness, type of attire, and unchecked luggage — were only relevant if there was evidence of “ongoing criminal activity” and the Government 

Page 490 U. S. 2

offered “[e]mpirical documentation” that the combination of facts at issue did not describe the behavior of “significant numbers of innocent persons.” The Court of Appeals held the agents’ stop impermissible, because there was no evidence of ongoing criminal behavior in this case.

Held: On the facts of this case, the DEA agents had a reasonable suspicion that respondent was transporting illegal drugs when they stopped him. Pp.  490 U. S. 7-11.

(a) Under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1,  392 U. S. 30, the police can stop and briefly detain a person for investigative purposes if they have a reasonable suspicion supported by articulable facts that criminal activity “may be afoot,” even if they lack probable cause under the Fourth Amendment. Reasonable suspicion entails some minimal level of objective justification for making a stop — that is, something more than an inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or “hunch,” but less than the level of suspicion required for probable cause. P.  490 U. S. 7.

(b) The Court of Appeals’ two-part test creates unnecessary difficulty in dealing with one of the relatively simple concepts embodied in the Fourth Amendment. Under this Court’s decisions, the totality of the circumstances must be evaluated to determine the probability, rather than the certainty, of criminal conduct.  United States v. Cortez, 449 U. S. 411,  449 U. S. 417. The Court of Appeals’ test draws an unnecessarily sharp line between types of evidence, the probative value of which varies only in degree. While traveling under an alias or taking an evasive path through an airport may be highly probative, neither type of evidence has the sort of ironclad significance attributed to it by the Court of Appeals, because there are instances in which neither factor would reflect ongoing criminal activity. On the other hand, the test’s “probabilistic” factors also have probative significance. Paying $2,100 in cash for airline tickets from a roll of $20 bills containing nearly twice that amount is not ordinary conduct for most business travelers or vacationers. The evidence that respondent was traveling under an alias, although not conclusive, was sufficient to warrant consideration. Of similar effect is the probability that few Honolulu residents travel for 20 hours to spend 48 hours in Miami during July. Thus, although each of these factors is not, by itself, proof of illegal conduct, and is quite consistent with innocent travel, taken together, they amount to reasonable suspicion that criminal conduct was afoot. Pp.  490 U. S. 7-10.

(c) The fact that the agents believed that respondent’s behavior was consistent with one of the DEA’s “drug courier profiles” does not alter this analysis, because the factors in question have evidentiary significance regardless of whether they are set forth in a “profile.” P.  490 U. S. 10.

(d) The reasonableness of the decision to stop does not, as respondent contends, turn upon whether the police used the least intrusive means 

Page 490 U. S. 3

available to verify or dispel their suspicions. Such a rule would unduly hamper the officers’ ability to make on-the-spot decisions — here, respondent was about to enter a taxicab — and would require courts to indulge in unrealistic second-guessing.  Florida v. Royer, 460 U. S. 491,  460 U. S. 495, distinguished. Pp.  490 U. S. 10-11.

831 F.2d 1413, reversed and remanded.

REHNQUIST, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, BLACKMUN, STEVENS, O’CONNOR, SCALIA, and KENNEDY, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post,p.  490 U. S. 11.

United States v. Sharpe, 470 U.S. 675 (1985)


A Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent, while patrolling a highway in an area under surveillance for suspected drug trafficking, noticed an apparently overloaded pickup truck with an attached camper traveling in tandem with a Pontiac. Respondent Savage was driving the truck, and respondent Sharpe was driving the Pontiac. After following the two vehicles for about 20 miles, the agent decided to make an “investigative stop,” and radioed the South Carolina State Highway Patrol for assistance. An officer responded, and he and the DEA agent continued to follow the two vehicles. When they attempted to stop the vehicles, the Pontiac pulled over to the side of the road, but the truck continued on, pursued by the state officer. After identifying himself and obtaining identification from Sharpe, the DEA agent attempted to radio the State Highway Patrol officer. The DEA agent was unable to contact the state officer to see if he had stopped the truck, so he radioed the local police for help. In the meantime, the state officer had stopped the truck, questioned Savage, and told him that he would be held until the DEA agent arrived. The agent, who had left the local police with the Pontiac, arrived at the scene approximately 15 minutes after the truck had been stopped. After confirming his suspicion that the truck was overloaded and upon smelling marihuana, the agent opened the rear of the camper without Savage’s permission and observed a number of burlap-wrapped bales resembling bales of marihuana that the agent had seen in previous investigations. The agent then placed Savage under arrest and, returning to the Pontiac, also arrested Sharpe. Chemical tests later showed that the bales contained marihuana. Respondents were charged with federal drug offenses, and, after the District Court denied their motion to suppress the contraband, were convicted. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that, because the investigative stops failed to meet the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of brevity governing detentions on less than probable cause, the marihuana should have been suppressed as the fruit of unlawful seizures.

Held: The detention of Savage clearly met the Fourth Amendment’s standard of reasonableness. Pp.  470 U. S. 682-688.

(a) In evaluating the reasonableness of an investigative stop, this Court examines

“whether the officer’s action was justified at its inception, and whether it was reasonably related in scope to the circumstances 

Page 470 U. S. 676

which justified the interference in the first place.”

Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1,  392 U. S. 20. As to the first part of the inquiry, the Court of Appeals assumed that the officers had an articulable and reasonable suspicion that respondents were engaged in marihuana trafficking, and the record abundantly supports that assumption, given the circumstances when the officers attempted to stop the Pontiac and the truck. As to the second part of the inquiry, while the brevity of an investigative detention is an important factor in determining whether the detention is unreasonable, courts must also consider the purposes to be served by the stop, as well as the time reasonably needed to effectuate those purposes. The Court of Appeals’ decision would effectively establish a per se rule that a 20-minute detention is too long to be justified under the Terry doctrine. Such a result is clearly and fundamentally at odds with this Court’s approach in this area. Pp. 682-686.

(b) In assessing whether a detention is too long in duration to be justified as an investigative stop, it is appropriate to examine whether the police diligently pursued a means of investigation that was likely to confirm or dispel their suspicions quickly, during which time it was necessary to detain the defendant. Here, the DEA agent diligently pursued his investigation, and clearly no delay unnecessary to the investigation was involved. Pp.  470 U. S. 686-688.

712 F.2d 65, reversed and remanded.

BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and O’CONNOR, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p.  470 U. S. 688. MARSHALL, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p.  470 U. S. 688. BRENNAN, J., post, p.  470 U. S. 702, and STEVENS, J., post, p.  470 U. S. 721, filed dissenting opinions.

United States v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218 (1973)


Having, as a result of a previous check of respondent’s operator’s permit, probable cause to arrest respondent for driving while his license was revoked, a police officer made a full custody arrest of respondent for such offense. In accordance with prescribed procedures, the officer made a search of respondent’s person, in the course of which he found in a coat pocket a cigarette package containing heroin. The heroin was admitted into evidence at the District Court trial, which resulted in respondent’s conviction for a drug offense. The Court of Appeals reversed on the ground that the heroin had been obtained as a result of a search in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Held: In the case of a lawful custodial arrest, a full search of the person is not only an exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment, but is also a “reasonable” search under that Amendment. Pp.  414 U. S. 224-237.

(a) A search incident to a valid arrest is not limited to a frisk of the suspect’s outer clothing and removal of such weapons as the arresting officer may, as a result of such frisk, reasonably believe and ascertain that the suspect has in his possession, and the absence of probable fruits or further evidence of the particular crime for which the arrest is made does not narrow the standards applicable to such a search.  Terry v. Ohio,392 U. S. 1, distinguished. Pp.  414 U. S. 227-229; 23235.

(b) A custodial arrest of a suspect based on probable cause is a reasonable intrusion under the Fourth Amendment and, a search incident to the arrest requires no additional justification, such as the probability in a particular arrest situation that weapons or evidence would, in fact, be found upon the suspect’s person; and whether or not there was present one of the reasons supporting the authority for a search of the person incident to a lawful arrest need not be litigated in each case. P.  414 U. S. 235.

(c) Since the custodial arrest here gave rise to the authority 

Page 414 U. S. 219

to search, it is immaterial that the arresting officer did not fear the respondent or suspect that he was armed. Pp.  414 U. S. 236-237.

153 U.S.App.D.C. 114, 471 F.2d 1082, reversed

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, WHITE, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., joined. POWELL J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p.  414 U. S. 237. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which DOUGLAS and BRENNAN, JJ., joined, post, p.  414 U. S. 238.

United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544 (1980)


Respondent, prior to trial in Federal District Court on a charge of possessing heroin with intent to distribute it, moved to suppress the introduction in evidence of the heroin on the ground that it had been acquired through an unconstitutional search and seizure by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents. At the hearing on the motion, it was established that, when respondent arrived at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport on a flight from Los Angeles, two DEA agents, observing that her conduct appeared to be characteristic of persons unlawfully carrying narcotics, approached her as she was walking through the concourse, identified themselves as federal agents, and asked to see her identification and airline ticket. After respondent produced her driver’s license, which was in her name, and her ticket, which was issued in another name, the agents questioned her briefly as to the discrepancy and as to how long she had been in California. After returning the ticket and driver’s license to her, one of the agents asked respondent if she would accompany him to the airport DEA office for further questions, and respondent did so. At the office, the agent asked respondent if she would allow a search of her person and handbag and told her that she had the right to decline the search if she desired. She responded: “Go ahead,” and handed her purse to the agent. A female police officer, who arrived to conduct the search of respondent’s person, also asked respondent if she consented to the search, and respondent replied that she did. When the policewoman explained that respondent would have to remove her clothing, respondent stated that she had a plane to catch, and was assured that, if she was carrying no narcotics, there would be no problem. Respondent began to disrobe without further comment, and took from her undergarments two packages, one of which appeared to contain heroin, and handed them to the policewoman. Respondent was then arrested for possessing heroin. The District Court denied the motion to suppress, concluding that the agents’ conduct in initially approaching the respondent and asking to see her ticket and identification was a permissible investigative stop, based on facts justifying a suspicion of criminal activity, that respondent had accompanied the agents to the DEA office voluntarily, and that respondent voluntarily consented to the 

Page 446 U. S. 545

search in the DEA office. Respondent was convicted after trial, but the Court of Appeals reversed, finding that respondent had not validly consented to the search.

Held: The judgment is reversed and the case is remanded. Pp.  446 U. S. 550-560;  446 U. S. 560-566.

596 F.2d 706, reversed and remanded.

MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to parts I, II-B, II-C, and III, concluding:

1. Respondent’s Fourth Amendment rights were not violated when she went with the agents from the concourse to the DEA office. Whether her consent to accompany the agents was in fact voluntary or was the product of duress or coercion is to be determined by the totality of all the circumstances. Under this test, the evidence — including evidence that respondent was not told that she had to go to the office, but was simply asked if she would accompany the officers, and that there were neither threats nor any show of force — was plainly adequate to support the District Court’s finding that respondent voluntarily consented to accompany the officers. The facts that the respondent was 22 years old, had not been graduated from high school, and was a Negro accosted by white officers, while not irrelevant, were not decisive.  Cf. Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U. S. 218. Pp.  446 U. S. 557-558.

2. The evidence also clearly supported the District Court’s view that respondent’s consent to the search of her person at the DEA office was freely and voluntarily given. She was plainly capable of a knowing consent, and she was twice expressly told by the officers that she was free to withhold consent, and only thereafter explicitly consented to the search. The trial court was entitled to view her statement, made when she was told that the search would require the removal of her clothing, that “she had a plane to catch” as simply an expression of concern that the search be conducted quickly, not as indicating resistance to the search. Pp. 446 U. S. 558-559.

MR. JUSTICE STEWART, joined by MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST, concluded in Part II-A, that no “seizure” of respondent, requiring objective justification, occurred when the agents approached her on the concourse and asked questions of her. A person has been “seized” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment only if, in view of all of the circumstances surrounding the incident, a reasonable person would have believed that he was not free to leave, and as long as the person to whom questions are put remains free to disregard the questions and walk away, there has been no intrusion upon that person’s liberty or privacy as would require some particularized and objective justification. Nothing in the record suggests that respondent had any objective reason to believe that 

Page 446 U. S. 546

she was not free to end the conversation in the concourse and proceed on her way. Pp.  446 U. S. 551-557.

MR. JUSTICE POWELL, joined by THE CHIEF JUSTICE and MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN, concluded that the question whether the DEA agents “seized” respondent within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment should not be reached, because neither of the courts below considered the question; and that, assuming that the stop did constitute a seizure, the federal agents, in light of all the circumstances, had reasonable suspicion that respondent was engaging in criminal activity and, therefore, did not violate the Fourth Amendment by stopping her for routine questioning. Pp.  446 U. S. 560-566.

STEWART, J., announced the Court’s judgment and delivered an opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II-B, II-C, and III, in which BURGER, C.J., and BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST , JJ., joined, and an opinion with respect to Part II-A, in which REHNQUIST, J., joined. POWELL, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which BURGER, C.J., and BLACKMUN, J., joined, post, p.  446 U. S. 560. WHITE, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p.  446 U. S. 566.

Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968)


A Cleveland detective (McFadden), on a downtown beat which he had been patrolling for many years, observed two strangers (petitioner and another man, Chilton) on a street corner. He saw them proceed alternately back and forth along an identical route, pausing to stare in the same store window, which they did for a total of about 24 times. Each completion of the route was followed by a conference between the two on a corner, at one of which they were joined by a third man (Katz) who left swiftly. Suspecting the two men of “casing a job, a stick-up,” the officer followed them and saw them rejoin the third man a couple of blocks away in front of a store. The officer approached the three, identified himself as a policeman, and asked their names. The men “mumbled something,” whereupon McFadden spun petitioner around, patted down his outside clothing, and found in his overcoat pocket, but was unable to remove, a pistol. The officer ordered the three into the store. He removed petitioner’s overcoat, took out a revolver, and ordered the three to face the wall with their hands raised. He patted down the outer clothing of Chilton and Katz and seized a revolver from Chilton’s outside overcoat pocket. He did not put his hands under the outer garments of Katz (since he discovered nothing in his pat-down which might have been a weapon), or under petitioner’s or Chilton’s outer garments until he felt the guns. The three were taken to the police station. Petitioner and Chilton were charged with carrying 

Page 392 U. S. 2

concealed weapons. The defense moved to suppress the weapons. Though the trial court rejected the prosecution theory that the guns had been seized during a search incident to a lawful arrest, the court denied the motion to suppress and admitted the weapons into evidence on the ground that the officer had cause to believe that petitioner and Chilton were acting suspiciously, that their interrogation was warranted, and that the officer, for his own protection, had the right to pat down their outer clothing having reasonable cause to believe that they might be armed. The court distinguished between an investigatory “stop” and an arrest, and between a “frisk” of the outer clothing for weapons and a full-blown search for evidence of crime. Petitioner and Chilton were found guilty, an intermediate appellate court affirmed, and the State Supreme Court dismissed the appeal on the ground that “no substantial constitutional question” was involved.


1. The Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures, made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment, “protects people, not places,” and therefore applies as much to the citizen on the streets as well as at home or elsewhere. Pp.  392 U. S. 8-9.

2. The issue in this case is not the abstract propriety of the police conduct, but the admissibility against petitioner of the evidence uncovered by the search and seizure. P.  392 U. S. 12.

3. The exclusionary rule cannot properly be invoked to exclude the products of legitimate and restrained police investigative techniques, and this Court’s approval of such techniques should not discourage remedies other than the exclusionary rule to curtail police abuses for which that is not an effective sanction. Pp.  392 U.S. 13-15.

4. The Fourth Amendment applies to “stop and frisk” procedures such as those followed here. Pp.  392 U. S. 16-20.

(a) Whenever a police officer accosts an individual and restrains his freedom to walk away, he has “seized” that person within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. P.  392 U. S. 16.

(b) A careful exploration of the outer surfaces of a person’s clothing in an attempt to find weapons is a “search” under that Amendment. P.  392 U. S. 16.

5. Where a reasonably prudent officer is warranted in the circumstances of a given case in believing that his safety or that of others is endangered, he may make a reasonable search for weapons of the person believed by him to be armed and dangerous 

Page 392 U. S. 3

regardless of whether he has probable cause to arrest that individual for crime or the absolute certainty that the individual is armed. Pp.  392 U. S. 20-27.

(a) Though the police must, whenever practicable, secure a warrant to make a search and seizure, that procedure cannot be followed where swift action based upon on-the-spot observations of the officer on the beat is required. P.  392 U. S. 20.

(b) The reasonableness of any particular search and seizure must be assessed in light of the particular circumstances against the standard of whether a man of reasonable caution is warranted in believing that the action taken was appropriate. Pp.  392 U. S. 21-22.

(c) The officer here was performing a legitimate function of investigating suspicious conduct when he decided to approach petitioner and his companions. P.  392 U. S. 22.

(d) An officer justified in believing that an individual whose suspicious behavior he is investigating at close range is armed may, to neutralize the threat of physical harm, take necessary measures to determine whether that person is carrying a weapon. P.  392 U. S. 24.

(e) A search for weapons in the absence of probable cause to arrest must be strictly circumscribed by the exigencies of the situation. Pp.  392 U. S. 25-26.

(f) An officer may make an intrusion short of arrest where he has reasonable apprehension of danger before being possessed of information justifying arrest. Pp.  392 U. S. 26-27.

6. The officer’s protective seizure of petitioner and his companions and the limited search which he made were reasonable, both at their inception and as conducted. Pp.  392 U. S. 27-30.

(a) The actions of petitioner and his companions were consistent with the officer’s hypothesis that they were contemplating a daylight robbery and were armed. P.  392 U. S. 28.

(b) The officer’s search was confined to what was minimally necessary to determine whether the men were armed, and the intrusion, which was made for the sole purpose of protecting himself and others nearby, was confined to ascertaining the presence of weapons. Pp.  392 U. S. 29-30.

7. The revolver seized from petitioner was properly admitted into evidence against him, since the search which led to its seizure was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. Pp.  392 U. S. 30-31.


Page 392 U. S. 4

Smith v. Ohio, 494 U.S. 541 (1990)


As petitioner Smith was approached by two police officers, he threw the bag he was carrying onto his car’s hood and, when asked, refused to reveal its contents. Although he attempted to protect the bag, one officer opened it and discovered drug paraphernalia that provided probable cause for Smith’s arrest and evidence to support his conviction for drug abuse. The Ohio Supreme Court upheld the bag’s warrantless search under the exception for searches incident to arrest, finding that the search was constitutional because its fruits justified the arrest that followed.

Held: A warrantless search providing probable cause for an arrest cannot be justified as an incident of that arrest. While the incident to arrest exception permits the police to search a lawfully arrested individual and areas within his immediate control, it does not permit them to search any citizen without a warrant or probable cause so long as an arrest follows. Contrary to the State’s argument, a citizen who attempts to protect his private property from inspection, after throwing it on a car to respond to a police officer’s inquiry, clearly has not abandoned his property.

Certiorari granted; 45 Ohio St.3d 255, 544 N.E.2d 239, reversed.

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

Riley v. California, 573 U.S. 373 (2014)



certiorari to the court of appeal of california, fourth appellate district, division one

No. 13–132. Argued April 29, 2014—Decided June 25, 2014[1]

In No. 13–132, petitioner Riley was stopped for a traffic violation, which eventually led to his arrest on weapons charges. An officer searching Riley incident to the arrest seized a cell phone from Riley’s pants pocket. The officer accessed information on the phone and noticed the repeated use of a term associated with a street gang. At the police station two hours later, a detective specializing in gangs further examined the phone’s digital contents. Based in part on photographs and videos that the detective found, the State charged Riley in connection with a shooting that had occurred a few weeks earlier and sought an enhanced sentence based on Riley’s gang membership. Riley moved to suppress all evidence that the police had obtained from his cell phone. The trial court denied the motion, and Riley was convicted. The California Court of Appeal affirmed. 

In No. 13–212, respondent Wurie was arrested after police observed him participate in an apparent drug sale. At the police station, the officers seized a cell phone from Wurie’s person and noticed that the phone was receiving multiple calls from a source identified as “my house” on its external screen. The officers opened the phone, accessed its call log, determined the number associated with the “my house” label, and traced that number to what they suspected was Wurie’s apartment. They secured a search warrant and found drugs, a firearm and ammunition, and cash in the ensuing search. Wurie was then charged with drug and firearm offenses. He moved to suppress the evidence obtained from the search of the apartment. The District Court denied the motion, and Wurie was convicted. The First Circuit reversed the denial of the motion to suppress and vacated the relevant convictions.

Held: The police generally may not, without a warrant, search digital information on a cell phone seized from an individual who has been arrested. Pp. 5–28.

(a) A warrantless search is reasonable only if it falls within a specific exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement. See Kentucky v. King, 563 U. S. ___, ___. The well-established exception at issue here applies when a warrantless search is conducted incident to a lawful arrest. 

Three related precedents govern the extent to which officers may search property found on or near an arrestee.  Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752, requires that a search incident to arrest be limited to the area within the arrestee’s immediate control, where it is justified by the interests in officer safety and in preventing evidence destruction. In United States v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218, the Court applied the Chimelanalysis to a search of a cigarette pack found on the arrestee’s person. It held that the risks identified in Chimel are present in all custodial arrests, 414 U. S., at 235, even when there is no specific concern about the loss of evidence or the threat to officers in a particular case, id., at 236. The trilogy concludes with Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. 332, which permits searches of a car where the arrestee is unsecured and within reaching distance of the passenger compartment, or where it is reasonable to believe that evidence of the crime of arrest might be found in the vehicle, id., at 343. Pp. 5–8.

(b) The Court declines to extend Robinson’s categorical rule to searches of data stored on cell phones. Absent more precise guidance from the founding era, the Court generally determines whether to exempt a given type of search from the warrant requirement “by assessing, on the one hand, the degree to which it intrudes upon an individual’s privacy and, on the other, the degree to which it is needed for the promotion of legitimate governmental interests.”  Wyoming v. Houghton, 526 U.S. 295, 300. That balance of interests supported the search incident to arrest exception in Robinson. But a search of digital information on a cell phone does not further the government interests identified in Chimel, and implicates substantially greater individual privacy interests than a brief physical search. Pp. 8–22.

(1) The digital data stored on cell phones does not present either Chimel risk. Pp. 10–15.

(i) Digital data stored on a cell phone cannot itself be used as a weapon to harm an arresting officer or to effectuate the arrestee’s escape. Officers may examine the phone’s physical aspects to ensure that it will not be used as a weapon, but the data on the phone can endanger no one. To the extent that a search of cell phone data might warn officers of an impending danger, e.g., that the arrestee’s confederates are headed to the scene, such a concern is better addressed through consideration of case-specific exceptions to the warrant requirement, such as exigent circumstances. See, e.g., Warden, Md. Penitentiary v. Hayden387 U.S. 294, 298–299. Pp. 10–12.

(ii) The United States and California raise concerns about the destruction of evidence, arguing that, even if the cell phone is physically secure, information on the cell phone remains vulnerable to remote wiping and data encryption. As an initial matter, those broad concerns are distinct from Chimel’s focus on a defendant who responds to arrest by trying to conceal or destroy evidence within his reach. The briefing also gives little indication that either problem is prevalent or that the opportunity to perform a search incident to arrest would be an effective solution. And, at least as to remote wiping, law enforcement currently has some technologies of its own for combatting the loss of evidence. Finally, law enforcement’s remaining concerns in a particular case might be addressed by responding in a targeted manner to urgent threats of remote wiping, see Missouri v. McNeely, 569 U. S. ___, ___, or by taking action to disable a phone’s locking mechanism in order to secure the scene, see Illinois v. McArthur, 531 U.S. 326, 331–333. Pp. 12–15.

(2) A conclusion that inspecting the contents of an arrestee’s pockets works no substantial additional intrusion on privacy beyond the arrest itself may make sense as applied to physical items, but more substantial privacy interests are at stake when digital data is involved. Pp. 15–22.

(i) Cell phones differ in both a quantitative and a qualitative sense from other objects that might be carried on an arrestee’s person. Notably, modern cell phones have an immense storage capacity. Before cell phones, a search of a person was limited by physical realities and generally constituted only a narrow intrusion on privacy. But cell phones can store millions of pages of text, thousands of pictures, or hundreds of videos. This has several interrelated privacy consequences. First, a cell phone collects in one place many distinct types of information that reveal much more in combination than any isolated record. Second, the phone’s capacity allows even just one type of information to convey far more than previously possible. Third, data on the phone can date back for years. In addition, an element of pervasiveness characterizes cell phones but not physical records. A decade ago officers might have occasionally stumbled across a highly personal item such as a diary, but today many of the more than 90% of American adults who own cell phones keep on their person a digital record of nearly every aspect of their lives. Pp. 17–21.

(ii) The scope of the privacy interests at stake is further complicated by the fact that the data viewed on many modern cell phones may in fact be stored on a remote server. Thus, a search may extend well beyond papers and effects in the physical proximity of an arrestee, a concern that the United States recognizes but cannot definitively foreclose. Pp. 21–22.

(c) Fallback options offered by the United States and California are flawed and contravene this Court’s general preference to provide clear guidance to law enforcement through categorical rules. See Michigan v. Summers, 452 U.S. 692, 705, n. 19. One possible rule is to import the Gant standard from the vehicle context and allow a warrantless search of an arrestee’s cell phone whenever it is reasonable to believe that the phone contains evidence of the crime of arrest. That proposal is not appropriate in this context, and would prove no practical limit at all when it comes to cell phone searches. Another possible rule is to restrict the scope of a cell phone search to information relevant to the crime, the arrestee’s identity, or officer safety. That proposal would again impose few meaningful constraints on officers. Finally, California suggests an analogue rule, under which officers could search cell phone data if they could have obtained the same information from a pre-digital counterpart. That proposal would allow law enforcement to search a broad range of items contained on a phone even though people would be unlikely to carry such a variety of information in physical form, and would launch courts on a difficult line-drawing expedition to determine which digital files are comparable to physical records. Pp. 22–25.

(d) It is true that this decision will have some impact on the ability of law enforcement to combat crime. But the Court’s holding is not that the information on a cell phone is immune from search; it is that a warrant is generally required before a search. The warrant requirement is an important component of the Court’s Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, and warrants may be obtained with increasing efficiency. In addition, although the search incident to arrest exception does not apply to cell phones, the continued availability of the exigent circumstances exception may give law enforcement a justification for a warrantless search in particular cases. Pp. 25–27.

No. 13–132, reversed and remanded; No. 13–212, 728 F.3d 1, affirmed.

Roberts, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Alito, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.

Rawlings v. Kentucky, 448 U.S. 98 (1980)


When police officers, armed with a warrant to arrest one Marquess, arrived at his house, another resident of the house and four visitors, including petitioner, were there. While searching the house unsuccessfully for Marquess, several officers smelled marihuana smoke and saw marihuana seeds. Two of the officers left to obtain a warrant to search the house, and the other officers detained the occupants, allowing them to leave only if they consented to a body search. About 45 minutes later, the officers returned with the search warrant; the warrant was read to the remaining occupants, including petitioner, and they were also given Miranda warnings; and one Cox, an occupant, was ordered to empty her purse, which contained drugs that were controlled substances under Kentucky law. Cox told petitioner, who was standing nearby in response to an officer’s command, “to take what was his,” and petitioner immediately claimed ownership of the drugs. At that time, an officer searched petitioner, finding $ 4,500 in cash and a knife, and petitioner was then formally arrested. Petitioner was indicted for possessing with intent to sell the controlled substances recovered from Cox’s purse, and the Kentucky trial court denied petitioner’s motion to suppress, as fruits of an illegal detention and illegal searches, the drugs, the money, and the statements made by him when the police discovered the drugs. Petitioner’s conviction was affirmed by the Kentucky Court of Appeals, and the Kentucky Supreme Court, in turn affirmed, holding that petitioner had no “standing” to contest the search of Cox’s purse because he had no legitimate or reasonable expectation of freedom from governmental intrusion into the purse, and that the search uncovering the money in petitioner’s pocket was justifiable as incident to a lawful arrest based on probable cause.


1. The conclusion that petitioner did not sustain his burden of proving that he had a legitimate expectation of privacy in Cox’s purse so as to allow him to challenge the validity of the search of the purse is supported by the record, which includes petitioner’s admission at the suppression hearing that he did not believe that the purse would be free from governmental intrusion. Nor was petitioner entitled to challenge 

Page 448 U. S. 99

the search, regardless of his expectation of privacy, merely because he claimed ownership of the drugs in the purse. While petitioner’s ownership of the drugs is one fact to be considered, “arcane” concepts of property law do not control the ability to claim the protections of the Fourth Amendment.  Cf. Rakas v. Illinois,439 U. S. 128. Pp.  448 U. S. 104-106.

2. Under the totality of circumstances present (the giving of Miranda warnings, the short lapse of time between petitioner’s detention and his admissions being outweighed by the “congenial atmosphere” in the house during this interval, his admissions being apparently spontaneous reactions to the discovery of the drugs in Cox’s purse, the police conduct not appearing to rise to the level of conscious or flagrant misconduct requiring prophylactic exclusion of petitioner’s admissions, and petitioner not having argued that his admissions were anything other than voluntary), Kentucky carried its burden of showing that petitioner’s statements to the police admitting his ownership of the drugs were acts of free will unaffected by any illegality in his detention, assuming, arguendo, that the police violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments by detaining petitioner and his companions in the house while they obtained a search warrant.  Cf. Brown v. Illinois, 422 U. S. 590. Pp.  448 U. S. 106-110.

3. The search of petitioner’s person that uncovered the money and the knife was valid as incident to his formal arrest. Once he admitted ownership of the drugs found in Cox’s purse, the police had probable cause to arrest him, and where the arrest followed quickly after the search of petitioner’s person it is not important that the search preceded the arrest, rather than vice versa. Pp.  448 U. S. 110-111.

581 S.W.2d 348, affirmed.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BLACKMUN, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, and in Parts I and II-A of which STEWART and WHITE, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p.  448 U. S. 111. WHITE, J., filed an opinion concurring in part, in which STEWARTJ J., joined, post, p.  448 U. S. 113. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 448 U. S. 114. 

Page 448 U. S. 100

New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325 (1985)


A teacher at a New Jersey high school, upon discovering respondent, then a 14-year-old freshman, and her companion smoking cigarettes in a school lavatory in violation of a school rule, took them to the Principal’s office, where they met with the Assistant Vice Principal. When respondent, in response to the Assistant Vice Principal’s questioning, denied that she had been smoking and claimed that she did not smoke at all, the Assistant Vice Principal demanded to see her purse. Upon opening the purse, he found a pack of cigarettes and also noticed a package of cigarette rolling papers that are commonly associated with the use of marihuana. He then proceeded to search the purse thoroughly and found some marihuana, a pipe, plastic bags, a fairly substantial amount of money, an index card containing a list of students who owed respondent money, and two letters that implicated her in marihuana dealing. Thereafter, the State brought delinquency charges against respondent in the Juvenile Court, which, after denying respondent’s motion to suppress the evidence found in her purse, held that the Fourth Amendment applied to searches by school officials, but that the search in question was a reasonable one, and adjudged respondent to be a delinquent. The Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s finding that there had been no Fourth Amendment violation, but vacated the adjudication of delinquency and remanded on other grounds. The New Jersey Supreme Court reversed and ordered the suppression of the evidence found in respondent’s purse, holding that the search of the purse was unreasonable.


1. The Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures applies to searches conducted by public school officials, and is not limited to searches carried out by law enforcement officers. Nor are school officials exempt from the Amendment’s dictates by virtue of the special nature of their authority over schoolchildren. In carrying out searches and other functions pursuant to disciplinary policies mandated by state statutes, school officials act as representatives of the State, not merely as surrogates for the parents of students, and they cannot claim the parents immunity from the Fourth Amendment’s strictures. Pp.  469 U. S. 333-337. 

Page 469 U. S. 326

2. Schoolchildren have legitimate expectations of privacy. They may find it necessary to carry with them a variety of legitimate, noncontraband items, and there is no reason to conclude that they have necessarily waived all rights to privacy in such items by bringing them onto school grounds. But striking the balance between schoolchildren’s legitimate expectations of privacy and the school’s equally legitimate need to maintain an environment in which learning can take place requires some easing of the restrictions to which searches by public authorities are ordinarily subject. Thus, school officials need not obtain a warrant before searching a student who is under their authority. Moreover, school officials need not be held subject to the requirement that searches be based on probable cause to believe that the subject of the search has violated or is violating the law. Rather, the legality of a search of a student should depend simply on the reasonableness, under all the circumstances, of the search. Determining the reasonableness of any search involves a determination of whether the search was justified at its inception and whether, as conducted, it was reasonably related in scope to the circumstances that justified the interference in the first place. Under ordinary circumstances, the search of a student by a school official will be justified at its inception where there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that the search will turn up evidence that the student has violated or is violating either the law or the rules of the school. And such a search will be permissible in its scope when the measures adopted are reasonably related to the objectives of the search, and not excessively intrusive in light of the student’s age and sex and the nature of the infraction. Pp.  469 U. S. 337-343.

3. Under the above standard, the search in this case was not unreasonable for Fourth Amendment purposes. First, the initial search for cigarettes was reasonable. The report to the Assistant Vice Principal that respondent had been smoking warranted a reasonable suspicion that she had cigarettes in her purse, and thus the search was justified despite the fact that the cigarettes, if found, would constitute “mere evidence” of a violation of the no-smoking rule. Second, the discovery of the rolling papers then gave rise to a reasonable suspicion that respondent was carrying marihuana as well as cigarettes in her purse, and this suspicion justified the further exploration that turned up more evidence of drug-related activities. Pp.  469 U. S. 343-347.

94 N.J. 331, 463 A.2d 934, reversed.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and POWELL, REHNQUIST, and O’CONNOR, JJ., joined, and in Part  469 U. S. MARSHALL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which O’CONNOR, J., joined, post, p.  469 U. S. 348. 

Page 469 U. S. 327

BLACKMUN, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p.  469 U. S. 351. BRENNAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p.  469 U. S. 353. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, and in Part I of which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p.  469 U. S. 370.

Minnesota v. Dickerson, 508 U.S. 366 (1993)



CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF MINNESOTA No. 91-2019. Argued March 3, 1993-Decided June 7, 1993

Based upon respondent’s seemingly evasive actions when approached by police officers and the fact that he had just left a building known for cocaine traffic, the officers decided to investigate further and ordered respondent to submit to a patdown search. The search revealed no weapons, but the officer conducting it testified that he felt a small lump in respondent’s jacket pocket, believed it to be a lump of crack cocaine upon examining it with his fingers, and then reached into the pocket and retrieved a small bag of cocaine. The state trial court denied respondent’s motion to suppress the cocaine, and he was found guilty of possession of a controlled substance. The Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed. In affirming, the State Supreme Court held that both the stop and the frisk of respondent were valid under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1, but found the seizure of the cocaine to be unconstitutional. Refusing to enlarge the “plain-view” exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement, the court appeared to adopt a categorical rule barring the seizure of any contraband detected by an officer through the sense of touch during a patdown search. The court further noted that, even if it recognized such a “plain-feel” exception, the search in this case would not qualify because it went far beyond what is permissible under Terry.


1. The police may seize nonthreatening contraband detected through the sense of touch during a protective patdown search of the sort permitted by Terry, so long as the search stays within the bounds marked by Terry. pp.372-377.

(a) Terry permits a brief stop of a person whose suspicious conduct leads an officer to conclude in light of his experience that criminal activity may be afoot, and a patdown search of the person for weapons when the officer is justified in believing that the person may be armed and presently dangerous. This protective search-permitted without a warrant and on the basis of reasonable suspicion less than probable cause-is not meant to discover evidence of crime, but must be strictly limited to that which is necessary for the discovery of weapons which might be used to harm the officer or others. If the protective search goes beyond what is necessary to determine if the suspect is armed, it


is no longer valid under Terry and its fruits will be suppressed. Sibron v. New York, 392 U. S. 40, 65-66. pp. 372-373.

(b) In Michigan v. Long, 463 U. S. 1032, 1050, the seizure of contraband other than weapons during a lawful Terry search was justified by reference to the Court’s cases under the “plain-view” doctrine. That doctrine-which permits police to seize an object without a warrant if they are lawfully in a position to view it, if its incriminating character is immediately apparent, and if they have a lawful right of access to it-has an obvious application by analogy to cases in which an officer discovers contraband through the sense of touch during an otherwise lawful search. Thus, if an officer lawfully pats down a suspect’s outer clothing and feels an object whose contour or mass makes its identity immediately apparent, there has been no invasion of the suspect’s privacy beyond that already authorized by the officer’s search for weapons. Cf., e. g., Illinois v. Andreas, 463 U. S. 765, 771. If the object is contraband, its warrantless seizure would be justified by the realization that resort to a neutral magistrate under such circumstances would be impracticable and would do little to promote the Fourth Amendment’s objectives. Cf., e. g., Arizona v. Hicks, 480 U. S. 321, 326-327. Pp. 374-377.

2. Application of the foregoing principles to the facts of this case demonstrates that the officer who conducted the search was not acting within the lawful bounds marked by Terry at the time he gained probable cause to believe that the lump in respondent’s jacket was contraband. Under the State Supreme Court’s interpretation of the record, the officer never thought that the lump was a weapon, but did not immediately recognize it as cocaine. Rather, he determined that it was contraband only after he squeezed, slid, and otherwise manipulated the pocket’s contents. While Terry entitled him to place his hands on respondent’s jacket and to feel the lump in the pocket, his continued exploration of the pocket after he concluded that it contained no weapon was unrelated to the sole justification for the search under Terry. Because this further search was constitutionally invalid, the seizure of the cocaine that followed is likewise unconstitutional. Pp. 377-379.

481 N. W. 2d 840, affirmed.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court with respect to Parts I and II, and the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts III and IV, in which STEVENS, O’CONNOR, SCALIA, KENNEDY, and SOUTER, JJ., joined. SCALIA, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 379. REHNQUIST, C. J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which BLACKMUN and THOMAS, JJ., joined, post, p. 383.