414 U.S. 260 (1973), 71-1669, Gustafson v. Florida

Docket Nº:No. 71-1669
Citation:414 U.S. 260, 94 S.Ct. 488, 38 L.Ed.2d 456
Party Name:Gustafson v. Florida
Case Date:December 11, 1973
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 260

414 U.S. 260 (1973)

94 S.Ct. 488, 38 L.Ed.2d 456




No. 71-1669

United States Supreme Court

December 11, 1973

Argued October 9, 1973



During the course of a pat-down search of the person of petitioner, who had been arrested for not having his driver's license in his possession, the arresting officer seized marihuana cigarettes, for the unlawful possession of which petitioner was subsequently tried and convicted. The State Supreme Court upheld the conviction, concluding that the search leading to the discovery of the marihuana, which was used as evidence in petitioner's trial, was not unreasonable.

Held: The full search of the person of the suspect made incident to a lawful custodial arrest did not violate the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, United States v. Robinson, ante, p. 218, and it is of no constitutional significance that, contrary to the situation in Robinson, police regulations did not require that petitioner be taken into custody or establish the conditions under which a full-scale body search should be conducted, nor, as in Robinson, is it relevant that the arresting officer had no subjective fear of petitioner or suspicion that he was armed, since it is the fact of custodial arrest that gives rise to the authority to search. Pp. 263-266.

258 So.2d 1, affirmed.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, WHITE, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., joined. STEWART, J., post, p. 266, and POWELL, J., ante, p. 237, filed concurring opinions. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which DOUGLAS and BRENNAN, JJ., joined, post, p. 267.

Page 261

REHNQUIST, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner James Gustafson was convicted in a Florida trial court for unlawful possession of marihuana. At his trial, the State introduced into evidence marihuana which had been seized from him during a search incident to his arrest on a charge of driving without possession of an operator's license. The District Court of Appeal of Florida, Fourth District, reversed petitioner's conviction, holding that the search which had led to the discovery of the marihuana was unreasonable under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. 243 So.2d 615 (1971). The Supreme Court of Florida, in turn, reversed that decision, 258 So.2d 1 (1972), and petitioner sought certiorari in this Court. We granted certiorari, 410 U.S. 982 (1073), and set the case for argument with No. 72-936, United States v. Robinson, also decided today, ante, p. 218. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the judgment of the Supreme Court of Florida.

At approximately 2 a.m. on January 12, 1969, Lieutenant Paul R. Smith, a uniformed municipal police officer of Eau Gallie, Florida, was on a routine patrol in an unmarked squad car when he observed a 1953 white Cadillac, bearing New York license plates, driving

Page 262

south through the town. Smith observed the automobile weave across the center line and back to the right side of the road "three or four" times. Smith testified that he observed the two occupants of the Cadillac look back; after they apparently saw the squad car, the car drove across the highway and behind a grocery store, and then headed south on another city street.

At that point, Smith turned on his flashing light and ordered the Cadillac over to the side of the road. After stopping the vehicle, Smith asked petitioner, the driver, to produce his operator's license. Petitioner informed Smith that he was a student and that he had left his operator's license in his dormitory room in the neighboring city of Melbourne, Florida. Petitioner was then placed under arrest for failure to have his vehicle operator's license in his possession. It was conceded by the parties below and in this Court that the officer had probable cause to arrest upon learning that petitioner did not have his license in his possession, and that he took petitioner into custody in order to transport him to the stationhouse for further inquiry.1

Smith then proceeded to search the petitioner's person. Smith testified that he patted down the clothing of the petitioner, "outside and inside, I checked the belt, the shirt pockets and all around the belt, completely around...

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