462 U.S. 640 (1983), 81-1859, Illinois v. Lafayette

Docket Nº:No. 81-1859.
Citation:462 U.S. 640, 103 S.Ct. 2605, 77 L.Ed.2d 65
Party Name:ILLINOIS, Petitioner v. Ralph LAFAYETTE.
Case Date:June 20, 1983
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 640

462 U.S. 640 (1983)

103 S.Ct. 2605, 77 L.Ed.2d 65

ILLINOIS, Petitioner

v.

Ralph LAFAYETTE.

No. 81-1859.

United States Supreme Court.

June 20, 1983

Argued April 20, 1983.

State appealed from an order of the Circuit Court, Kankakee County, John F. Michela, J., which suppressed evidence obtained during a warrantless search of the defendant's shoulder bag subsequent to his arrest for disturbing the peace. The Illinois Appellate Court, 99 Ill.App.3d 830, 55 Ill.Dec. 210, 425 N.E.2d 1383, affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court denied discretionary review. Certiorari was granted. The Supreme Court, Chief Justice Burger, held that: (1) the search of the arrestee's shoulder bag was a valid inventory search, and (2) the fact that the protection of the public and the arrestee's property could be achieved by less intrusive means did not render the search unreasonable.

Reversed and remanded.

Justice Marshall filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in which Justice Brennan joined.

[103 S.Ct. 2606] Syllabus[*]

SYLLABUS

After respondent was arrested for disturbing the peace, he was taken to the police station. There, without obtaining a warrant and in the process of booking him and inventorying his possessions, the police removed the contents of a shoulder bag respondent had been carrying and found amphetamine pills. Respondent was subsequently charged with violating the Illinois Controlled Substances Act, and at a pretrial hearing the trial court ordered suppression of the pills. The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed, holding that the shoulder bag search did not constitute a valid search incident to a lawful arrest or a valid inventory search of respondent's belongings.

Held: The search of respondent's shoulder bag was a valid inventory search. Pp. 2608-2611.

(a) Consistent with the Fourth Amendment, it is reasonable for police to search the personal effects of a person under lawful arrest as part of the routine administrative procedure at a police station incident to booking and jailing the suspect. The justification for such searches does not rest on probable cause, and hence the absence of a warrant is immaterial to the reasonableness of the search. Here, every consideration of orderly police administration--protection of a suspect's property, deterrence [103 S.Ct. 2607] of false claims of theft against the police, security, and identification of the suspect--benefiting both the police and the public points toward the appropriateness of the examination of respondent's shoulder bag. Pp. 2608-2610.

(b) The fact that the protection of the public and of respondent's property might have been achieved by less intrusive means does not, in itself, render the search unreasonable. Even if some less intrusive means existed, it would be unreasonable to expect police officers in the everyday course of business to make fine and subtle distinctions in deciding which containers or items may be searched, and which must be sealed without examination as a unit. Pp. 2610-2611.

99 Ill.App.3d 830, 55 Ill.Dec. 210, 425 N.E.2d 1383, reversed and remanded.

COUNSEL

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Michael A. Ficaro, Assistant Attorney General of Illinois, argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs were Neil F. Hartigan, Attorney General, Tyrone C. Fahner, former Attorney General, Paul P. Biebel, Jr., First Assistant Attorney General, and Steven F. Molo, Assistant Attorney General.

Peter A. Carusona argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief wereRobert Agostinelli and Frank W. Ralph.*

* Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal were filed by Solicitor General Lee, Assistant Attorney General Jensen, Deputy Solicitor General Frey, and Elliott Schulder for the United States; and by Fred E. Inbau, Wayne W. Schmidt, James P. Manak, Howard G. Berringer, Richard J. Brzeczek, David Crump, Courtney A. Evans, Daniel B. Hales, James A. Murphy, and Evelle J. Younger for the Chicago Police Department et al.

Quin Denvir and George L. Schraer filed a brief for the California State Public Defender as amicus curiae urging affirmance.

Michael A. Ficaro, Chicago, Ill., for petitioner.

Peter A. Carusona, Ottawa, Ill., for respondent.

OPINION

Chief Justice BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question presented is whether, at the time an arrested person arrives at a police station, the police may, without obtaining a warrant, search a shoulder bag carried by that person.

I

On September 1, 1980, at about 10 p.m., Officer Maurice Mietzner of the Kankakee City Police arrived at the Town Cinema in Kankakee, Illinois, in response to a call about a disturbance. There he found respondent involved in an altercation with the theatre manager. He arrested respondent for disturbing the peace, handcuffed him, and took him to the police station. Respondent carried a purse-type shoulder bag on the trip to the station.

At the police station respondent was taken to the booking room; there, Officer Mietzner removed the handcuffs from respondent and ordered him to empty his pockets and place

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the contents on the counter. After doing so, respondent took a package of cigarettes from his shoulder bag and placed the bag on the counter. Mietzner then removed the contents of the bag, and found ten amphetamine pills inside a cigarette case package.

Respondent was subsequently charged with violating Section 402(b) of the Illinois Controlled Substances Act, Ill.Rev.Stat., ch. 561/2, ¶ 1402(b), on the basis of the controlled substances found in his shoulder bag. A pretrial suppression hearing was held at which the State argued that the search of the shoulder bag was a valid inventory search under South Dakota v. Opperman, 428 U.S. 364, 96 S.Ct. 3092, 49 L.Ed.2d 1000 (1976). Officer Mietzner testified that he examined the bag's contents because it was standard procedure to inventory "everything" in the possession of an arrested person. App. 15, 16. He testified that he was not seeking and did not expect to find drugs or weapons when he searched the bag and he conceded that the shoulder bag was small enough that it could have been placed and sealed in a bag, container or locker for protective purposes. Id., at 15. After the hearing, but before any ruling, the State submitted a brief in which it argued for the first time that the search was valid as a delayed search incident to arrest. Thereafter, the trial court ordered the suppression of the amphetamine pills. Id., at 22.

On appeal, the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed. 99 Ill.App.3d 830, 55 Ill.Dec. 210, 425 N.E.2d 1383 (3d Dist.1981). It first held that the State had waived the argument that the search was incident to a valid arrest by failing to raise that argument at the suppression hearing. Id., at 832, 55 Ill.Dec., at 212, 425 N.E.2d, at 1385. However, the court went on to discuss and reject the State's argument: "[E]ven assuming, arguendo, that the State has not waived this argument, the stationhouse search of the shoulder bag did not constitute a valid search incident to a lawful [103 S.Ct. 2608] arrest." Id., at 833, 55 Ill.Dec., at 212, 425 N.E.2d, at 1385.

The State court also held that the search was not a valid inventory of respondent's belongings. It purported to distinguish

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South Dakota v. Opperman, supra, on the basis that there is a greater privacy interest in a purse-type shoulder bag than in an automobile, and that the State's legitimate interests could have been met in a less intrusive manner, by "sealing [the shoulder bag] within a plastic bag or box and placing it in a secured locker." 99 Ill.App.3d, at 834-835, 55 Ill.Dec., at 213, 425 N.E.2d, at 1386. The Illinois court concluded:

"Therefore, the postponed warrantless search of the [respondent's] shoulder bag was neither incident to his lawful arrest nor a valid inventory of his belongings, and thus, violated the fourth amendment." Id., at 835, 55 Ill.Dec., at 213, 425 N.E.2d, at 1386.

The Illinois Supreme Court denied discretionary review. App. to Pet. for Cert. B-1. We granted certiorari, 459 U.S. 986, 103 S.Ct. 339, 75 L.Ed.2d 381 (1982), because of the frequency with which this question confronts police and courts, and we reverse.

II

The question here is whether, consistent with the Fourth Amendment, it is reasonable for police to search the personal effects of a person under lawful arrest as part of the routine administrative procedure at a police stationhouse incident to booking and jailing the suspect. The justification for such searches does not rest on probable cause, and hence the absence of a warrant is immaterial to the reasonableness of the search. Indeed, we have previously established that the inventory search constitutes a well-defined exception to the warrant requirement. See South Dakota v. Opperman, supra. The Illinois court and respondent rely on United States v. Chadwick, 433 U.S. 1, 97 S.Ct. 2476, 53 L.Ed.2d 538 (1977), and Arkansa v. Sanders, 442 U.S. 753, 99 S.Ct. 2586, 61 L.Ed.2d 235 (1979); in the former, we noted that "probable cause to search is irrelevant" in inventory searches and went on to state:

"This is so because the salutary...

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