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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a previous check of respondent’s operator’s permit, probable cause to arrest respondent for driving while his license was revoked, a police officer made a full custody arrest of respondent for such offense.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.