525 U.S. 83 (1998), 97-1147, Minnesota v. Carter

Docket Nº:No. 97-1147
Citation:525 U.S. 83, 119 S.Ct. 469, 142 L.Ed.2d 373, 67 U.S.L.W. 4017
Party Name:MINNESOTA v. CARTER
Case Date:December 01, 1998
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 83

525 U.S. 83 (1998)

119 S.Ct. 469, 142 L.Ed.2d 373, 67 U.S.L.W. 4017

MINNESOTA

v.

CARTER

No. 97-1147

United States Supreme Court

December 1, 1998[*]

Argued October 6, 1998

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF MINNESOTA

Syllabus

A police officer looked in an apartment window through a gap in the closed blind and observed respondents Carter and Johns and the apartment's lessee bagging cocaine. After respondents were arrested, they moved to suppress, inter alia, cocaine and other evidence obtained from the apartment and their car, arguing that the officer's initial observation was an unreasonable search in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Respondents were convicted of state drug offenses. The Minnesota trial court held that since they were not overnight social guests, they were not entitled to Fourth Amendment protection, and that the officer's observation was not a search under the Amendment. The State Court of Appeals held that Carter did not have "standing" to object to the officer's actions because the evidence indicated that he used the apartment for a business purpose—to package drugs—and, separately, affirmed Johns' conviction without addressing the "standing" issue. In reversing, the State Supreme Court held that respondents had "standing" to claim Fourth Amendment protection because they had a legitimate expectation of privacy in the invaded place, and that the officer's observation constituted an unreasonable search.

Held:

Any search that may have occurred did not violate respondents' Fourth Amendment rights. The state courts' analysis of respondents' expectation of privacy under the rubric of "standing" doctrine was expressly rejected in Rakas v. Illinois, 439 U.S. 128, 140. Rather, to claim Fourth Amendment protection, a defendant must demonstrate that he personally has an expectation of privacy in the place searched, and that his expectation is reasonable. Id., at 143-144, n. 12. The Fourth Amendment protects persons against unreasonable searches of "their persons [and] houses," and thus indicates that it is a personal right that must be invoked by an individual. But the extent to which the Amendment protects people may depend upon where those people are. While an overnight guest may have a legitimate expectation of privacy in someone else's home, see Minnesota v. Olson, 495 U.S. 91, 98-99, one who is merely present with the consent of the householder may not, see Jones v. United States, 362 U.S. 257, 259. And an expectation

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of privacy in commercial property is different from, and less than, a similar expectation in a home. New York v. Burger, 482 U.S. 691, 700. Here, the purely commercial nature of the transaction, the relatively short period of time that respondents were on the premises, and the lack of any previous connection between them and the householder all lead to the conclusion that their situation is closer to that of one simply permitted on the premises. Any search which may have occurred did not violate their Fourth Amendment rights. Because respondents had no legitimate expectation of privacy, the Court need not decide whether the officer's observation constituted a "search." Pp. 87-91.

569 N.W.2d 169 (first judgment) and 180 (second judgment), reversed and remanded.

Rehnquist, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which O'Connor, Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas, JJ., joined. Scalia, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which Thomas, J., joined, post, p. 91. Kennedy, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 99. Breyer, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 103. Ginsburg, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Stevens and Souter, JJ., joined, post, p. 106.

James C. Backstrom argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs were Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General of Minnesota, and Phillip D. Prokopowicz.

Jeffrey A. Lamken argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging reversal. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Waxman, Acting Assistant Attorney General Keeney, and Deputy Solicitor General Dreeben.

Bradford Colbert argued the cause for respondents. With him on the brief were John M. Stuart, Lawrence Hammerling, Marie L. Wolf, and Scott G. Swanson. [†]

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Chief Justice Rehnquist delivered the opinion of the Court.

Respondents and the lessee of an apartment were sitting in one of its rooms, bagging cocaine. While so engaged they were observed by a police officer, who looked through a drawn window blind. The Supreme Court of Minnesota held that the officer's viewing was a search that violated respondents' Fourth Amendment rights. We hold that no such violation occurred.

James Thielen, a police officer in the Twin Cities' suburb of Eagan, Minnesota, went to an apartment building to investigate a tip from a confidential informant. The informant said that he had walked by the window of a ground-floor apartment and had seen people putting a white powder into bags. The officer looked in the same window through a gap in the closed blind and observed the bagging operation for several minutes. He then notified headquarters, which began preparing affidavits for a search warrant while he returned to the apartment building. When two men left the building in a previously identified Cadillac, the police stopped the car. Inside were respondents Carter and Johns. As the police opened the door of the car to let Johns out, they observed a black, zippered pouch and a handgun, later determined to be loaded, on the vehicle's floor. Carter and Johns were arrested, and a later police search of the vehicle the next day discovered pagers, a scale, and 47 grams of cocaine in plastic sandwich bags.

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After seizing the car, the police returned to apartment 103 and arrested the occupant, Kimberly Thompson, who is not a party to this appeal. A search of the apartment pursuant to a warrant revealed cocaine residue on the kitchen table and plastic baggies similar to those found in the Cadillac. Thielen identified Carter, Johns, and Thompson as the three people he had observed placing the powder into baggies. The police later learned that while Thompson was the lessee of the apartment, Carter and Johns lived in Chicago and had come to the apartment for the sole purpose of packaging the cocaine. Carter and Johns had never been to the apartment before and were only in the apartment for approximately 2½ hours. In return for the use of the apartment, Carter and Johns had given Thompson one-eighth of an ounce of the cocaine.

Carter and Johns were charged with conspiracy to commit a controlled substance crime in the first degree and aiding and abetting in a controlled substance crime in the first degree, in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 152.021, subds. 1(1), 3(a),609.05 (1996). They moved to suppress all evidence obtained from the apartment and the Cadillac, as well as to suppress several post arrest incriminating statements they had made. They argued that Thielen's initial observation of their drug packaging activities was an unreasonable search in violation of the Fourth Amendment and that all evidence obtained as a result of this unreasonable search was inadmissible as fruit of the poisonous tree. The Minnesota trial court held that since, unlike the defendant in Minnesota v. Olson, 495 U.S. 91 (1990), Carter and Johns were not overnight social guests but temporary out-of-state visitors, they were not entitled to claim the protection of the Fourth Amendment against the government intrusion into the apartment. The trial court also concluded that Thielen's observation was not a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. After a trial, Carter and Johns were each convicted of both offenses. The Minnesota Court of Appeals

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held that respondent Carter did not have "standing" to object to Thielen's actions because his claim that he was predominantly a social guest was "inconsistent with the only evidence concerning his stay in the apartment, which indicates that he used it for a business purpose—to package drugs." 545 N.W.2d 695, 698 (1996). In a separate appeal, the Court of Appeals also affirmed Johns' conviction, without addressing whet it termed the "standing" issue. State v. Johns, No. C9-95-1765 (June 11, 1996), App. D-1, D-3 (unpublished).

A divided Minnesota Supreme Court reversed, holding that respondents had "standing" to claim the protection of the Fourth Amendment because they had " 'a legitimate expectation of privacy in the invaded place.' " 569 N.W.2d 169, 174 (1997) (quoting Rakas v. Illinois, 439 U.S. 128, 143 (1978)). The court noted that even though "society does not recognize as valuable the task of bagging cocaine, we conclude that society does recognize as valuable the right of property owners or leaseholders to invite persons into the privacy of their homes to conduct a common task, be it legal or illegal activity. We, therefore, hold that [respondents] had standing to bring [their] motion to suppress the evidence gathered as a result of Thielen's observations." 569 N.W.2d, at 176; see also 569 N.W.2d 180, 181 (1997). Based upon its conclusion that respondents had "standing" to raise their Fourth Amendment claims, the court went on to hold that Thielen's observation constituted a search of the apartment under the Fourth Amendment, and that the search was unreasonable. Id., at 176-179. We granted certiorari, 523 U.S. 1003 (1998), and now reverse.

The Minnesota courts analyzed whether respondents had a legitimate expectation of privacy under the rubric of "standing" doctrine, an analysis that this Court expressly rejected 20 years ago in Rakas. 439 U.S., at 139-140. In that case, we held that automobile passengers could not assert the protection of the Fourth Amendment against the

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seizure of...

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