414 U.S. 260 (1973), 72-936, United States v. Robinson

Docket Nº:72-936
Citation:414 U.S. 260, 94 S.Ct. 494, 38 L.Ed.2d 427, 38 L.Ed.2d 456
Party Name:United States v. Robinson
Case Date:December 11, 1973
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 260

414 U.S. 260 (1973)

94 S.Ct. 494, 38 L.Ed.2d 427, 38 L.Ed.2d 456

UNITED STATES, Petitioner,


Willie ROBINSON, Jr.

James E. GUSTAFSON, Petitioner,


State of FLORIDA.

Nos. 72--936, 71--1669.

United States Supreme Court.

December 11, 1973

For opinions of the Court see 94 S.Ct. 467, 488.

Mr. Justice POWELL, concurring.

Although I join the opinions of the Court, I write briefly to emphasize what seems to me to be the essential premise of our decisions.

The Fourth Amendment safeguards the right of 'the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures . . ..' These are areas of an individual's life about which he entertains legitimate expectations of privacy. I believe that an individual lawfully subjected to a custodial arrest retains no significant Fourth Amendment interest in the privacy of his person. Under this view the custodial arrest is the significant intrusion of state power into the privacy of one's person. If the arrest is lawful, the privacy interest guarded by the Fourth Amendment is subordinated to a legitimate and overriding governmental concern. No reason then exists to frustrate law enforcement by requiring some independent justification for a search incident to a lawful custodial arrest. This seems to me the reason that a valid arrest justifies a full search of the person, even if that search is not narrowly limited by the twin rationales of seizing evidence and disarming the arrestee. 1 The search incident to arrest is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment because the privacy interest protected by that constitutional guarantee is legitimately abated by the fact of arrest. 2


[1] The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit aptly stated this rationale in Charles v. United States, 278 F.2d 386, 388--389 (1960):

'Power over the body of the accused is the essence of his arrest; the two cannot be separated. To say that the police may curtail the liberty of the accused but refrain from impinging upon the sanctity of his pockets except for enumerated reasons is to ignore the custodial duties which devolve upon arresting authorities. Custody must of necessity be asserted initially over whatever the arrested party has in his possession at the time of apprehension. Once the body of the accused is validly subjected to the physical dominion of the law, inspections of his person, regardless of purpose,...

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