448 U.S. 98 (1980), 79-5146, Rawlings v. Kentucky

Docket Nº:No. 79-5146
Citation:448 U.S. 98, 100 S.Ct. 2556, 65 L.Ed.2d 633
Party Name:Rawlings v. Kentucky
Case Date:June 25, 1980
Court:United States Supreme Court

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448 U.S. 98 (1980)

100 S.Ct. 2556, 65 L.Ed.2d 633




No. 79-5146

United States Supreme Court

June 25, 1980

Argued March 26, 1980



When police officers, armed with a warrant to arrest one Marquess, arrived at [100 S.Ct. 2558] 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

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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. 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. 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. 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. 111. WHITE, J., filed an opinion concurring in part, in which STEWARTJ J., joined, post, p. 113. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 114.

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REHNQUIST, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner David Rawlings was convicted by the Commonwealth of Kentucky on charges of trafficking in, and possession of, various controlled substances. Throughout the proceedings below, Rawlings challenged the admissibility of certain evidence and statements on the ground that they were the fruits of an illegal detention and illegal searches. The trial court, the Kentucky Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court of Kentucky all rejected Rawlings' challenges. We granted certiorari, 444 U.S. 989, and now affirm.


In the middle of the afternoon on October 18, 1976, six police officers armed with a warrant for the arrest of one Lawrence Marquess on charges of drug distribution arrived at Marquess' house in Bowling Green, Ky. In the house at the time the police arrived were one of Marquess' housemates, Dennis Saddler, and four visitors, Keith Northern, Linda Braden, Vanessa Cox, and petitioner David Rawlings. While searching unsuccessfully in the house for Marquess, several police officers smelled marihuana smoke and saw marihuana seeds on the mantel in one of the bedrooms. After conferring briefly, Officers Eddie Railey and John Bruce left to obtain a search warrant. While Railey and Bruce were gone, the other four officers detained the occupants of the house in the living room, allowing them to leave only if they consented to a body search. Northern and Braden did consent to such a search and were permitted to depart. Saddler, Cox, and petitioner remained seated in the living room.

Approximately 45 minutes later, Railey and Bruce returned with a warrant authorizing them to search the house. Railey read the warrant to Saddler, Cox, and petitioner, and also read Miranda warnings from a card he carried in his pocket. At that time, Cox was seated on a couch with petitioner seated to her left. In the space between them was Cox's handbag.

After Railey finished his recitation, he approached petitioner

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and told him to stand. Officer Don Bivens simultaneously approached Cox and ordered her to empty the contents of her purse onto a coffee table in front of the couch. Among those contents were a jar containing 1,800 tablets of LSD and a number of smaller vials containing benzphetamine, methamphetamine, methyprylan, and pentobarbital, all of which are controlled substances under Kentucky law.

Upon pouring these objects out onto the coffee table, Cox turned to petitioner and told him "to take what was his." App. 62. Petitioner, who was standing in response to Officer Railey's command, immediately claimed ownership of the controlled substances. At that time, Railey searched petitioner's person and found $ 4,500 in cash in petitioner's shirt pocket and a knife in a sheath at petitioner's side. Railey then placed petitioner under formal arrest.

Petitioner was indicted for possession with intent to sell the various controlled substances recovered from Cox's purse. At the suppression hearing, he testified that he had flown into Bowling Green about a week before his arrest to look for a job and perhaps to attend the local university. He brought with him at that time the drugs later found in Cox's purse. Initially, petitioner stayed in the house where the arrest took place as the guest of Michael Swank, who shared the house with Marquess and Saddler. While at a party at that house, he met Cox and spent at least two nights of the next week on a couch at Cox's house.

On the morning of petitioner's arrest, Cox had dropped him off at Swank's house where he waited for her to return from class. At that time, he was carrying the drugs in a green bank bag. When Cox returned to the house to meet him, petitioner dumped the contents of the bank bag into Cox's purse. Although there is dispute over the discussion that took place, petitioner [100 S.Ct. 2560] testified that he "asked her if she would carry this for me, and she said, `yes.' . . ." App. 42.1 Petitioner

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then left the room to use the bathroom and, by the time he returned, discovered that the police had arrived to arrest Marquess.

The trial court denied petitioner's motion to suppress the drugs and the money and to exclude the statements made by petitioner when the police discovered the drugs. According to the trial court, the warrant obtained by the police authorized them to search Cox's purse. Moreover, even if the search of the purse was illegal, the trial court believed that petitioner lacked "standing" to contest that search. Finally, the trial court believed that the search that revealed the money and the knife was permissible "under the exigencies of the situation." Id. at 21. After a bench trial, petitioner was found guilty of possession with intent to sell LSD and of possession of benzphetamine, methamphetamine, methyprylan, and pentobarbital.

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The Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed. Disagreeing with the trial court, the appellate court held that petitioner did have "standing" to dispute the legality of the search of...

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