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

Page 640

462 U.S. 640 (1983)

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

ILLINOIS, Petitioner



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[*]


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.


Page 641

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.


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.


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

Page 642

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...

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