460 U.S. 491 (1983), 80-2146, Florida v. Royer

Docket Nº:No. 80-2146
Citation:460 U.S. 491, 103 S.Ct. 1319, 75 L.Ed.2d 229
Party Name:Florida v. Royer
Case Date:March 23, 1983
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 491

460 U.S. 491 (1983)

103 S.Ct. 1319, 75 L.Ed.2d 229

Florida

v.

Royer

No. 80-2146

United States Supreme Court

March 23, 1983

Argued October 12, 1982

CERTIORARI TO THE DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL OF FLORIDA,

THIRD APPELLATE DISTRICT

Syllabus

After purchasing a one-way airline ticket to New York City at Miami International Airport under an assumed name and checking his two suitcases bearing identification tags with the same assumed name, respondent went to the concourse leading to the airline boarding area, where he was approached by two detectives, who previously had observed him and believed that his characteristics fit the so-called "drug courier profile." Upon request, but without oral consent, respondent produced his airline ticket and driver's license, which carried his correct name. When the detectives asked about the discrepancy in names, respondent explained that a friend had made the ticket reservation in the assumed name. The detectives then informed respondent that they were narcotics investigators and that they had reason to suspect him of transporting narcotics, and, without returning his airline ticket or driver's license, asked him to accompany them to a small room adjacent to the concourse. Without respondent's consent, one of the detectives retrieved respondent's luggage from the airline and brought it to the room. While he did not respond to the detectives' request that he consent to a search of the luggage, respondent produced a key and unlocked one of the suitcases in which marihuana was found. When respondent said he did not know the combination to the lock on the second suitcase, but did not object to its being opened, the officers pried it open and found more marihuana. Respondent was then told he was under arrest. Following the Florida trial court's denial of his pretrial motion to suppress the evidence obtained in the search of the suitcases, respondent was convicted of felony possession of marihuana. The Florida District Court of Appeal reversed, holding that respondent had been involuntarily confined within the small room without probable cause, that, at the time his consent to search was obtained, the involuntary detention had exceeded the limited restraint permitted by Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, and that such consent was therefore invalid because tainted by the unlawful confinement.

Held: The judgment is affirmed.

389 So.2d 1007, affirmed.

JUSTICE WHITE, joined by JUSTICE MARSHALL, JUSTICE POWELL, and JUSTICE STEVENS, concluded that respondent was being illegally detained when he consented to the search of his luggage and that such consent

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was tainted by the illegality, and hence was ineffective to justify the search. Pp. 497-508.

(a) When the detectives identified themselves as narcotics agents, told respondent he was suspected of transporting narcotics, and asked him to accompany them to the police room, while retaining his airline ticket and driver's license and without indicating in any way that he was free to depart, respondent was effectively seized for purposes of the Fourth Amendment. At the time respondent produced the key to his suitcase, the detention to which he was then subjected was a more serious intrusion on his personal liberty than is allowable on mere suspicion of criminal activity. What had begun as a consensual inquiry in a public place escalated into an investigatory procedure in a police interrogation room, and respondent, as a practical matter, was under arrest at that time. Moreover, the detectives' conduct was more intrusive than necessary to effectuate an investigative detention otherwise authorized by the Terry line of cases. Pp. 501-507.

(b) Probable cause to arrest respondent did not exist at the time he consented to the search of his luggage. P. 507.

JUSTICE BRENNAN, concurring in the result, agreed that, at some point after the initial stop, the officers' seizure of the respondent matured into an arrest unsupported by probable cause. The respondent's consent to the search of his suitcases, therefore, was tainted by the illegal arrest. P. 509.

WHITE, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which MARSHALL, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 508. BRENNAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in the result, post, p. 509. BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 513. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., and O'CONNOR, J., joined, post, p. 519.

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WHITE, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE WHITE announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which JUSTICE MARSHALL, JUSTICE POWELL, and JUSTICE STEVENS joined.

We are required in this case to determine whether the Court of Appeal of Florida, Third District, properly applied the precepts of the Fourth Amendment in holding that respondent Royer was being illegally detained at the time of his purported consent to a search of his luggage.

I

On January 3, 1978, Royer was observed at Miami International Airport by two plainclothes detectives of the Dade County, Fla., Public Safety Department assigned to the county's Organized Crime Bureau, Narcotics [103 S.Ct. 1322] Investigation Section.1 Detectives Johnson and Magdalena believed that Royer's appearance, mannerisms, luggage, and actions fit the so-called "drug courier profile."2 Royer, apparently unaware of the attention he had attracted, purchased a one-way ticket to New York City and checked his two suitcases, placing on each suitcase an identification tag bearing the name "Holt" and the destination "La Guardia." As Royer made

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his way to the concourse which led to the airline boarding area, the two detectives approached him, identified themselves as policemen working out of the sheriff's office, and asked if Royer had a "moment" to speak with them; Royer said "Yes."

Upon request, but without oral consent, Royer produced for the detectives his airline ticket and his driver's license. The airline ticket, like the baggage identification tags, bore the name "Holt," while the driver's license carried respondent's correct name, "Royer." When the detectives asked about the discrepancy, Royer explained that a friend had made the reservation in the name of "Holt." Royer became noticeably more nervous during this conversation, whereupon the detectives informed Royer that they were in fact narcotics investigators, and that they had reason to suspect him of transporting narcotics.

The detectives did not return his airline ticket and identification, but asked Royer to accompany them to a room, approximately 40 feet away, adjacent to the concourse. Royer said nothing in response, but went with the officers as he had been asked to do. The room was later described by Detective Johnson as a "large storage closet," located in the stewardesses' lounge and containing a small desk and two chairs. Without Royer's consent or agreement, Detective Johnson, using Royer's baggage check stubs, retrieved the "Holt" luggage from the airline and brought it to the room where respondent and Detective Magdalena were waiting. Royer was asked if he would consent to a search of the suitcases. Without orally responding to this request, Royer produced a key and unlocked one of the suitcases, which one detective then opened without seeking further assent from Royer. Marihuana was found in that suitcase. According to Detective Johnson, Royer stated that he did not know the combination to the lock on the second suitcase. When asked if he objected to the detective opening the second suitcase, Royer said "[n]o, go ahead," and did not object when the detective

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explained that the suitcase might have to be broken open. The suitcase was pried open by the officers, and more marihuana was found. Royer was then told that he was under arrest. Approximately 15 minutes had elapsed from the time the detectives initially approached respondent until his arrest upon the discovery of the contraband.

Prior to his trial for felony possession of marihuana,3 Royer made a motion to suppress the evidence obtained in the search of the suitcases. The trial court found that Royer's consent to the search was "freely and voluntarily given," and that, regardless of the consent, the warrantless search was reasonable, because "the officer doesn't have the time to run out and get a [103 S.Ct. 1323] search warrant because the plane is going to take off."4 Following the denial of the motion to suppress, Royer changed his plea from "not guilty" to "nolo contendere," specifically reserving the right to appeal the denial of the motion to suppress.5 Royer was convicted.

The District Court of Appeal, sitting en banc, reversed Royer's conviction.6 The court held that Royer had been involuntarily confined within the small room without probable cause; that the involuntary detention had exceeded the limited restraint permitted by Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), at the time his consent to the search was obtained; and that the consent to search was therefore invalid because tainted by the unlawful confinement.7

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Several factors led the court to conclude that respondent's confinement was tantamount to arrest. Royer had

found himself in a small enclosed area being confronted by two police officers -- a situation which presents an almost classic definition of imprisonment.

389 So.2d 1007, 1018 (1980). The detectives' statement to Royer that he was suspected of transporting narcotics also bolstered the finding that Royer was "in custody" at the time the consent to search was given. Ibid. In addition, the detectives' possession of Royer's airline ticket and their retrieval and possession of his luggage made it clear, in the District Court of Appeal's...

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