553 U.S. 164 (2008), 06-1082, Virginia v. Moore

Docket Nº:06-1082.
Citation:553 U.S. 164, 128 S.Ct. 1598
Opinion Judge:SCALIA, Justice.
Party Name:VIRGINIA, Petitioner, v. David Lee MOORE.
Attorney:Stephen R. McCullough, Deputy State Solicitor General of Virginia, argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs were Robert F. McDonnell, Attorney General, William E. Thro, State Solicitor General, William C. Mims, Chief Deputy Attorney General, Maria Graff Decker, Deputy Attorney Gene...
Judge Panel:SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and STEVENS, KENNEDY, SOUTER, THOMAS, BREYER, and ALTTO, JJ., joined. GINSBURG, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 178. JUSTICE Ginsburg, concurring in the judgment.
Case Date:April 23, 2008
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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553 U.S. 164 (2008)

128 S.Ct. 1598

VIRGINIA, Petitioner,

v.

David Lee MOORE.

No. 06-1082.

United States Supreme Court

April 23, 2008

Argued January 14, 2008.

[128 S.Ct. 1600] Syllabus

Rather than issuing the summons required by Virginia law, police arrested respondent Moore for the misdemeanor of driving on a suspended license. A search incident to the arrest yielded crack cocaine, and Moore was tried on drug charges. The trial court declined to suppress the evidence on Fourth Amendment grounds. Moore was convicted. Ultimately, the Virginia Supreme Court reversed, reasoning that the search violated the Fourth Amendment because the arresting officers should have issued a citation under state law, and the Fourth Amendment does not permit search incident to citation.

Held:

The police did not violate the Fourth Amendment when they made an arrest that was based on probable cause but prohibited by state law, or when they performed a search incident to the arrest. Pp. 168-178.

(a) Because the founding era's statutes and common law do not support Moore's view that the Fourth Amendment was intended to incorporate statutes, this is "not a case in which the claimant can point to a 'clear answer [that] existed in 1791 and has been generally adhered to by the traditions of our society ever since,'" Atwater v. Lago Vista, 532 U.S. 318, 345, 121 S.Ct. 1536, 149 L.Ed.2d 549. Pp. 168-171.

(b) Where history provides no conclusive answer, this Court has analyzed a search or seizure in light of traditional reasonableness standards "by assessing, on the one hand, the degree to which it intrudes upon an individual's privacy and, on the other, the degree to which it is needed for the promotion of legitimate governmental interests." Wyoming v. Houghton, 526 U.S. 295, 300, 119 S.Ct. 1297, 143 L.Ed.2d 408. Applying that methodology, this Court has held that when an officer has probable cause to believe a person committed even a minor crime, the arrest is constitutionally reasonable. Atwater, supra, at 354, 121 S.Ct. 1536. This Court's decisions counsel against changing the calculus when a State chooses to protect privacy beyond the level required by the Fourth Amendment. See, e.g., Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 116 S.Ct. 1769, 135 L.Ed.2d 89. United States v. Di Re, 332 U.S. 581, 68 S.Ct. 222, 92 L.Ed. 210, distinguished. Pp. 171-173.

(c) The Court adheres to this approach because an arrest based on probable cause serves interests that justify seizure. Arrest ensures that a suspect appears to answer charges and does not continue a crime,

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and it safeguards evidence and enables officers to conduct an in-custody investigation. A State's choice of a more restrictive search-and-seizure policy does not render less restrictive ones unreasonable, and hence unconstitutional. While States are free to require their officers to engage in nuanced determinations of the need for arrest as a matter of their own law, the Fourth Amendment should reflect administrable bright-line rules. Incorporating state arrest [128 S.Ct. 1601] rules into the Constitution would make Fourth Amendment protections as complex as the underlying state law, and variable from place to place and time to time. Pp. 173-176.

(d) The Court rejects Moore's argument that even if the Constitution allowed his arrest, it did not allow the arresting officers to search him. Officers may perform searches incident to constitutionally permissible arrests in order to ensure their safety and safeguard evidence. United States v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218, 94 S.Ct. 467, 38 L.Ed.2d 427. While officers issuing citations do not face the same danger, and thus do not have the same authority to search, Knowles v. Iowa, 525 U.S. 113, 119 S.Ct. 484, 142 L.Ed.2d 492, the officers arrested Moore, and therefore faced the risks that are "an adequate basis for treating all custodial arrests alike for purposes of search justification," Robinson, supra, at 235, 94 S.Ct. 467. Pp. 176-178.

272 Va. 717, 636 S.E.2d 395, reversed and remanded.

Stephen R. McCullough, Deputy State Solicitor General of Virginia, argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs were Robert F. McDonnell, Attorney General, William E. Thro, State Solicitor General, William C. Mims, Chief Deputy Attorney General, Maria Graff Decker, Deputy Attorney General, and Leah A. Darron, Senior Assistant Attorney General.

Deputy Solicitor General Dreeben argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Clement, Assistant Attorney General Fisher, and Matthew D. Roberts.

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Thomas C. Goldstein argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were S. Jane Chittom, Pamela S. Karlan, Jeffrey L. Fisher, Amy Howe, and Kevin K. Russell[*]

SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and STEVENS, KENNEDY, SOUTER, THOMAS, BREYER, and ALTTO, JJ., joined. GINSBURG, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 178.

OPINION

SCALIA, Justice.

We consider whether a police officer violates the Fourth Amendment by making an arrest based on probable cause but prohibited by state law..

I

On February 20, 2003, two City of Portsmouth police officers stopped a car driven by David Lee Moore. They had heard over the police radio that a person known as "Chubs" was driving with a suspended license, and one of the officers knew Moore by that nickname. The officers determined

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that Moore's license was in fact suspended, and arrested him for the misdemeanor of driving on a suspended license, which is punishable under Virginia law by a year in jail and a $2,500 fine, Va.Code Ann. §§ 18.2-11 (Lexis 2004), 18.2-272 (Supp. 2007), 46.2-301(C) (Lexis 2005). The officers subsequently searched Moore and found that he was carrying 16 grams of crack cocaine and $516 in cash. 1 [128 S.Ct. 1602] See 272 Va. 717, 636 S.E.2d 395 (2006); 45 Va.App. 146, 609 S.E.2d 74 (2005).

Under state law, the officers should have issued Moore a summons instead of arresting him. Driving on a suspended license, like some other misdemeanors, is not an arrestable offense except as to those who "fail or refuse to discontinue" the violation, and those whom the officer reasonably believes to be likely to disregard a summons, or likely to harm themselves or others. Va. Code Ann. §19.2-74 (Lexis 2004). The intermediate appellate court found none of these circumstances applicable, and Virginia did not appeal that determination. See 272 Va., at 720, n. 3, 636 S.E. 2d, at 396-397, n. 3. Virginia also permits arrest for driving on a suspended license in jurisdictions where "prior general approval has been granted by order of the general district court," Va. Code Ann. §46.2-936; Virginia has never claimed such approval was in effect in the county where Moore was arrested.

Moore was charged with possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute it in violation of Virginia law. He filed a pretrial motion to suppress the evidence from the arrest search. Virginia law does not, as a general matter, require suppression of evidence obtained in violation of state law. See 45 Va. App., at 160-162, 609 S.E. 2d, at 82

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(Annunziata, J., dissenting). Moore argued, however, that suppression was required by the Fourth Amendment. The trial court denied the motion, and after a bench trial found Moore guilty of the drug charge and sentenced him to a 5-year prison term, with one year and six months of the sentence suspended. The conviction was reversed by a panel of Virginia's intermediate court on Fourth Amendment grounds, id., at 149-150, 609 S.E. 2d, at 76, reinstated by the intermediate court sitting en banc, 47 Va.App. 55, 622 S.E.2d 253 (2005), and finally reversed again by the Virginia Supreme Court, 272 Va., at 725, 636 S.E. 2d, at 400. The Court reasoned that since the arresting officers should have issued Moore a citation under state law, and the Fourth Amendment does not permit search incident to citation, the arrest search violated the Fourth Amendment. Ibid. We granted certiorari. 551 U.S. 1187, 128 S.Ct. 28, 168 L.Ed.2d 805 (2007).

II

The Fourth Amendment protects "against unreasonable searches and seizures" of (among other things) the person. In determining whether a search or seizure is unreasonable, we begin with history. We look to the statutes and common law of the founding era to determine the norms that the Fourth Amendment was meant to preserve. See Wyoming v. Houghton, 526 U.S. 295, 299, 119 S.Ct. 1297, 143 L.Ed.2d 408 (1999); Wilson v. Arkansas, 514 U.S. 927, 931, 115 S.Ct. 1914, 131 L.Ed.2d 976 (1995).

We are aware of no historical indication that those who ratified the Fourth Amendment understood it as a redundant guarantee of whatever limits on search and seizure legislatures might have enacted. 2 [128 S.Ct. 1603] The immediate object of the

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Fourth Amendment was to prohibit the general warrants and writs of assistance that English judges had employed against the colonists, Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616, 624-627, 6 S.Ct. 524, 29 L.Ed. 746 (1886); Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 583-584, 100 S.Ct. 1371, 63 L.Ed.2d 639 (1980). That suggests, if anything, that founding-era citizens were skeptical of using the rules for search and seizure set by government actors as the index of reasonableness.

Joseph Story, among others, saw the Fourth Amendment as "little more than the affirmance of a great constitutional doctrine of the common law," 3 Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States §1895, p. 748 (1833), which Story defined in opposition to statutes, see Codification of the Common Law in The Miscellaneous Writings of Joseph Story 698, 699, 701 (W. Story ed. 1852). No early case or...

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