472 U.S. 463 (1985), 84-778, Maryland v. Macon

Docket Nº:No. 84-778
Citation:472 U.S. 463, 105 S.Ct. 2778, 86 L.Ed.2d 370, 53 U.S.L.W. 4783
Party Name:Maryland v. Macon
Case Date:June 17, 1985
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 463

472 U.S. 463 (1985)

105 S.Ct. 2778, 86 L.Ed.2d 370, 53 U.S.L.W. 4783

Maryland

v.

Macon

No. 84-778

United States Supreme Court

June 17, 1985

Argued April 17, 1985

CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF SPECIAL APPEALS OF MARYLAND

Syllabus

A county detective, who was not in uniform, entered an adult bookstore, browsed for several minutes, and purchased two magazines from respondent salesclerk with a marked $50 bill. The detective then left the store and showed [105 S.Ct. 2779] the magazines to fellow officers who were waiting nearby. Upon concluding that the magazines were obscene, the detectives returned to the store, arrested respondent, and retrieved the marked $50 bill from the cash register, neglecting to return the change received at the time of the purchase. Prior to trial on a charge of distributing obscene materials in violation of a Maryland statute, the trial court denied respondent's motion to suppress the magazines and the $50 bill, holding that the purchase was not a seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment and that the warrantless arrest was lawful. The magazines, but not the $50 bill, were introduced in evidence, and the jury found respondent guilty. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals reversed, holding that a warrant was required both to seize allegedly obscene materials and to arrest the distributor in order to provide a procedural safeguard for the First Amendment freedom of expression.

Held:

The detectives did not obtain possession of the allegedly obscene magazines by means of an unreasonable search or seizure, and the magazines were not the fruit of an arrest, lawful or otherwise. Thus the magazines were properly admitted in evidence. Pp. 467-471.

(a) Absent some action taken by government agents that can properly be classified as a "search" or a "seizure," the Fourth Amendment rules designed to safeguard First Amendment freedoms do not apply. The officer's action in entering the bookstore and examining the wares that were intentionally exposed to all who frequented the place of business did not infringe a legitimate expectation of privacy, and hence did not constitute a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. And the subsequent purchase was not a Fourth Amendment seizure, since a seizure occurs when there is some meaningful interference with an individual's possessory interests in the property seized, and here respondent voluntarily transferred any possessory interest he may have had in the magazines to the purchaser upon the receipt of the funds. The risk of prior restraint, which is the underlying basis for the special Fourth Amendment protections accorded searches for and seizures of First Amendment materials, does not come into play in cases where an under-cover

Page 464

officer, by purchasing a few magazines, merely accepts an offer to do business that is freely made to the public. Nor was the bona fide nature of the purchase changed, so as to become tantamount to a warrantless seizure, when the officers later seized the marked $50 bill and failed to return the change. Objectively viewed, the transaction was a sale in the ordinary course of business, and the sale was not retrospectively transformed into a warrantless seizure by virtue of the officers' subjective intent to retrieve the purchase money to use as evidence. Pp. 468-471.

(b) Even assuming, arguendo, that respondent's warrantless arrest after the purchase of the magazines was an unreasonable seizure, it would not require exclusion of the magazines at trial. The exclusionary rule does not reach backward to taint information that was in official hands prior to any illegality. Here, the magazines were in police possession before the arrest, and the $50 bill, the only fruit of the arrest, was not introduced in evidence. P. 471.

57 Md.App. 705, 471 A.2d 1090, reversed.

O'Connor, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Burger, C.J., and White, Blackmun, Powell, Rehnquist, and Stevens, JJ., joined. Brennan, JJ., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Marshall, J., joined, post, p. 472.

O'CONNOR, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE O'CONNOR delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case requires us to decide whether allegedly obscene magazines purchased by undercover officers shortly before

Page 465

the warrantless arrest of a salesclerk must be excluded from evidence at the clerk's subsequent trial for distribution of obscene materials. Following a jury trial in the [105 S.Ct. 2780] Circuit Court of Prince George's County, Maryland, respondent was convicted of distribution of obscene materials in violation of Md.Ann.Code, Art. 27, § 418 (1982). The Maryland Court of Special Appeals reversed the conviction and ordered the charges dismissed on the ground that the magazines were improperly admitted in evidence. 57 Md.App. 705, 471 A.2d 1090 (1984). The Maryland Court of Appeals denied certiorari. 300 Md. 795, 481 A.2d 240 (1984). We granted certiorari, 469 U.S. 1156 (1985), to resolve a conflict among the state courts on the question whether a purchase of allegedly obscene matter by an undercover police officer constitutes a seizure under the Fourth Amendment. Finding that it does not, we reverse.

I

On May 6, 1981, three Prince George's County police detectives went to the Silver News, Inc., an adult bookstore in Hyattsville, Maryland, as part of a police investigation of adult bookstores in the area. One of the detectives, who was not in uniform, entered the store, browsed for several minutes, and purchased two magazines from a clerk, Baxter Macon, with a marked $50 bill. The detective left the store and showed the two magazines to his fellow officers who were waiting nearby. Together they concluded that the magazines were obscene under the criteria previously used by them in warrant applications. The detectives returned to the store, arrested respondent Macon, who was the only attendant in the store, and retrieved from the cash register the $50 bill that had been used to make the purchase. The officers neglected to return the change received at the time of the purchase. Respondent escorted the remaining customers out and closed the bookstore before leaving with the detectives.

Page 466

Prior to trial, Macon moved to suppress the magazines purchased by the officers and the $50 bill used to make the purchase. App. 21. The trial judge denied the motion on the grounds that the purchase was not a seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, and that the warrantless arrest was lawful. Id. at 52. The magazines, but not the $50 bill, were subsequently introduced in evidence at trial. The jury found respondent guilty of distributing obscene materials. Respondent appealed, contending that a prior judicial determination of probable cause to believe the matter distributed was obscene was required to sustain a seizure and an arrest on charges related to obscenity. Absent such a determination, respondent argued, the allegedly obscene materials must be suppressed and the charges must be dismissed. Respondent did not challenge the jury's finding that the magazines were obscene.

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals agreed that a warrant is required both to seize allegedly obscene materials and to arrest the distributor in order to provide a procedural safeguard for the First Amendment freedom of expression. 57 Md.App. at 710, 471 A.2d at 1092. In cases involving First Amendment rights, the court reasoned, Fourth Amendment safeguards, including suppression of material acquired in connection with a warrantless arrest, must be applied more stringently. Ibid. The court determined that the purchase of the magazines was a "constructive" seizure, and that the proper remedy was to exclude the magazines from evidence at the subsequent trial. Id. at 716, 471 A.2d at 1096. Alternatively, the court held that the warrantless arrest of respondent on obscenity charges required the exclusion of the publications from evidence. Id. at 719, 471 A.2d at 1097. The court accordingly reversed the conviction and ordered that the charges be dismissed because without the magazines the evidence was insufficient to sustain a conviction. Ibid.

Page 467

By holding that the purchase constituted a seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals rejected the position taken by the majority of state courts that have considered the issue. In evaluating the undercover purchase of allegedly obscene materials, [105 S.Ct. 2781] most state courts have treated as self-evident the proposition that a purchase by an undercover officer is not a seizure, regardless of whether the funds used to make the purchase are later retrieved as evidence. See, e.g., Baird v. State, 12 Ark. App. 71, 671 S.W.2d 191 (1984) (en banc); Wood v. State, 144 Ga.App. 236, 240 S.E.2d 743 (1977), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 899 (1978); People v. Ridens, 51 Ill.2d 410, 282 N.E.2d 691 (1972), vacated and remanded on other grounds, 413 U.S. 912 (1973); State v. Welke, 298 Minn. 402, 216 N.W.2d 641 (1974); State v. Perry, 567 S.W.2d 380 (Mo.App.1978); State v. Dornblaser, 26 Ohio Misc. 29, 267 N.E.2d 434 (1971); Cherokee News & Arcade, Inc. v. State, 533 P.2d 624 (Okla.Crim.App.1974). But see State v. Fyama, 64 Haw. 109, 637 P.2d 1095 (1981) (reaching the contrary conclusion).

For the reasons set forth below, we conclude that the officer's entry into the bookstore and later examination of materials offered for sale there did not constitute a search, and that the purchase of two magazines did not effect a seizure. We do not decide whether a warrant is required to arrest a suspect on obscenity-related charges, because the magazines at issue were not the product of the warrantless arrest. Because we hold that the magazines were properly admitted in evidence at trial, we also do not address respondent's contention that the Double Jeopardy Clause bars retrial.

II

The central issue presented...

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565 practice notes
  • 'Could have,' 'would have': what the Supreme Court should have decided in Whren v. United States.
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Vol. 34 Nbr. 3, March 1997
    • 22 Marzo 1997
    ...1774 (1996) ("Subjective intentions play no role in ordinary, probable-cause Fourth Amendment analysis"); Maryland v. Macon, 472 U.S. 463, 470-71 (1985) (stating that Fourth Amendment inquiries depend "on an objective assessment of the officer's actions in light of the facts ......
  • Policing Police Access to Criminal Justice Data
    • United States
    • Iowa Law Review Nbr. 104-2, January 2019
    • 1 Enero 2019
    ...(quoting Bynum, 262 F.2d at 468–69)). 333. United States v. Crews, 445 U.S. 463 (1980). 334. Id. at 475; see also Maryland v. Macon, 472 U.S. 463, 471 (1985) (“The exclusionary rule . . . does not reach backward to taint information that was in official hands prior to any illegality.” (quot......
  • What is a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment?
    • United States
    • Albany Law Review Vol. 70 Nbr. 1, December 2006
    • 22 Diciembre 2006
    ...implications of police conduct only to the extent that intent has been conveyed to the person confronted."); Maryland v. Macon, 472 U.S. 463, 470-71 (1985) (holding that Fourth Amendment violation is an objective inquiry and does not depend on the officer's state of mind); Scott v. Uni......
  • Suspicionless border seizures of electronic files: the overextension of the border search exception to the Fourth Amendment.
    • United States
    • William and Mary Law Review Vol. 51 Nbr. 1, October 2009
    • 1 Octubre 2009
    ...dissenting). (132.) Kerr, supra note 26, at 542. (133.) United States v. Jacobsen, 466 U.S. 109, 113 (1984). (134.) See Maryland v. Macon, 472 U.S. 463, 469 (1985); Ohm, supra note 115, at [paragraph] 14. (135.) Ohm, supra note 115, at [paragraph] 14. (136.) In the Macon case, the Court hel......
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    ...action does not invalidate the action as long as the circumstances, viewed objectively, justify that action"); Maryland v. Macon, 472 U.S. 463, 470-71, 105 S.Ct. 2778, 2783, 86 L.Ed.2d 370 (1985) (whether violation of fourth amendment has occurred turns on objective assessment of offic......
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    ...time of SSgt Payne’s "inspection;" nor was the detention of sufficient duration to amount to a seizure. See Maryland v. Macon, 472 U.S. 463, 469 (1985); United States v. Van Leeuwen, 397 U.S. 249, 253...
  • 729 F.Supp. 1035 (D.N.J. 1990), Civ. A. 87-3249, Major League Baseball Promotion Corp. v. Colour-Tex, Inc.
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    ...occurs when there is some meaningful interference with an individual's possessory interests in the property seized. Maryland v. Macon, 472 U.S. 463, 469, 105 S.Ct. 2778, 2782, 86 L.Ed.2d 370 (1985) Page 1049 United States v. Jackson, 466 U.S. 109, 113, 104 S.Ct. 1652, 1656, 80 L.Ed.2d 85 (1......
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14 books & journal articles
  • 'Could have,' 'would have': what the Supreme Court should have decided in Whren v. United States.
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Vol. 34 Nbr. 3, March 1997
    • 22 Marzo 1997
    ...1774 (1996) ("Subjective intentions play no role in ordinary, probable-cause Fourth Amendment analysis"); Maryland v. Macon, 472 U.S. 463, 470-71 (1985) (stating that Fourth Amendment inquiries depend "on an objective assessment of the officer's actions in light of the facts ......
  • Policing Police Access to Criminal Justice Data
    • United States
    • Iowa Law Review Nbr. 104-2, January 2019
    • 1 Enero 2019
    ...(quoting Bynum, 262 F.2d at 468–69)). 333. United States v. Crews, 445 U.S. 463 (1980). 334. Id. at 475; see also Maryland v. Macon, 472 U.S. 463, 471 (1985) (“The exclusionary rule . . . does not reach backward to taint information that was in official hands prior to any illegality.” (quot......
  • What is a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment?
    • United States
    • Albany Law Review Vol. 70 Nbr. 1, December 2006
    • 22 Diciembre 2006
    ...implications of police conduct only to the extent that intent has been conveyed to the person confronted."); Maryland v. Macon, 472 U.S. 463, 470-71 (1985) (holding that Fourth Amendment violation is an objective inquiry and does not depend on the officer's state of mind); Scott v. Uni......
  • Suspicionless border seizures of electronic files: the overextension of the border search exception to the Fourth Amendment.
    • United States
    • William and Mary Law Review Vol. 51 Nbr. 1, October 2009
    • 1 Octubre 2009
    ...dissenting). (132.) Kerr, supra note 26, at 542. (133.) United States v. Jacobsen, 466 U.S. 109, 113 (1984). (134.) See Maryland v. Macon, 472 U.S. 463, 469 (1985); Ohm, supra note 115, at [paragraph] 14. (135.) Ohm, supra note 115, at [paragraph] 14. (136.) In the Macon case, the Court hel......
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