Michigan v. Summers, 79-1794

Decision Date22 June 1981
Docket NumberNo. 79-1794,79-1794
Citation69 L.Ed.2d 340,101 S.Ct. 2587,452 U.S. 692
PartiesState of MICHIGAN, Petitioner, v. George SUMMERS
CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Syllabus

When police officers executing a warrant to search a house for narcotics encountered respondent descending the front steps, they requested his assistance in gaining entry and detained him while they searched the premises. After finding narcotics and ascertaining that respondent owned the house, the police arrested him, searched his person, and found heroin in his coat pocket. Respondent, who was charged with possession of the heroin found on his person, moved to suppress the heroin as the product of an illegal search in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The trial judge granted the motion and quashed the information, and both the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court affirmed.

Held : The initial detention of respondent, which constituted a "seizure" and was assumed to be unsupported by probable cause, did not violate his constitutional right to be secure against an unreasonable seizure of his person. For Fourth Amendment purposes, a warrant to search for contraband founded on probable cause implicitly carries with it the limited authority to detain the occupants of the premises while a proper search is conducted. Because it was lawful to require respondent to re-enter and to remain in the house until evidence establishing probable cause to arrest him was found, his arrest and the search incident thereto were constitutionally permissible. Pp. 694-705.

407 Mich. 432, 286 N.W.2d 226, reversed.

Timothy A. Baughman, Detroit, Mich., for petitioner.

Elliott Schulder, Washington, D. C., for the U. S., as amicus curiae, by special leave of Court.

Gerald M. Lorence, Detroit, Mich., for respondent.

Bruce J. Ennis, Jr., New York City, for the American Civil Liberties Union, as amicus curiae, by special leave of Court.

Justice STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.

As Detroit police officers were about to execute a warrant to search a house for narcotics, they encountered respondent descending the front steps. They requested his assistance in gaining entry and detained him while they searched the premises. After finding narcotics in the basement and ascertaining that respondent owned the house, the police arrested him, searched his person, and found in his coat pocket an envelope containing 8.5 grams of heroin.1 Respondent was charged with possession of the heroin found on his person. He moved to suppress the heroin as the product of an illegal search in violation of the Fourth Amendment,2 and the trial judge granted the motion and quashed the information. That order was affirmed by a divided panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals, 68 Mich.App. 571, 243 N.W.2d 689, and by the Michigan Supreme Court over the dissent of three of its justices. 407 Mich. 432, 286 N.W.2d 226. We granted the State's petition for certiorari, 449 U.S. 898, 101 S.Ct. 265, 66 L.Ed.2d 127, and now reverse.

I

The dispositive question in this case is whether the initial detention of respondent violated his constitutional right to be secure against an unreasonable seizure of his person. The State attempts to justify the eventual search of respondent's person by arguing that the authority to search premises granted by the warrant implicitly included the authority to search persons on those premises, just as that authority included an authorization to search furniture and containers in which the particular things described might be concealed. But as the Michigan Court of Appeals correctly noted, even if otherwise acceptable, this argument could not justify the initial detention of respondent outside the premises described in the warrant. See 68 Mich.App., at 578-580, 243 N.W 2d, at 692-693. If that detention was permissible, there is no need to reach the question whether a search warrant for premises includes the right to search persons found there, because when the police searched respondent, they had probable cause to arrest him and had done so.3 Our appraisal of the validity of the search of respondent's person therefore depends upon a determination whether the officers had the authority to require him to re-enter the house and to remain there while they conducted their search.4

II

In assessing the validity of respondent's initial detention, we note first that it constituted a "seizure" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.5 The State does not contend otherwise, and the record demonstrates that respondent was not free to leave the premises while the officers were searching his home. It is also clear that respondent was not formally arrested until after the search was completed. The dispute therefore involves only the constitutionality of a pre-arrest "seizure" which we assume was unsupported by probable cause.

In Dunaway v. New York, 442 U.S. 200, 99 S.Ct. 2248, 60 L.Ed.2d 824, the Court reaffirmed the general rule that an official seizure of the person must be supported by probable cause, even if no formal arrest is made. In that case police officers located a murder suspect at a neighbor's house, took him into custody, and transported him to the police station, where interrogation ultimately produced a confession. Because the suspect was not arrested until after he had confessed, and because he presumably would have been set free if probable cause had not been established during his questioning, the State argued that the pre-arrest detention should not be equated with an arrest and should be upheld as "reasonable" in view of the serious character of the crime and the fact that the police had an articulable basis for suspecting that Dunaway was involved. Id., at 207, 99 S.Ct., at 2253. The Court firmly rejected the State's argument, noting that "the detention of petitioner was in important respects indistinguishable from a traditional arrest." Id., at 212, 99 S.Ct., at 2256.6 We stated:

"Indeed, any 'exception' that could cover a seizure as intrusive as that in this case would threaten to swallow the general rule that Fourth Amendment seizures are 'reasonable' only if based on probable cause.

"The central importance of the probable-cause requirement to the protection of a citizen's privacy afforded by the Fourth Amendment's guarantees cannot be compromised in this fashion. 'The requirement of probable cause has roots that are deep in our history.' Henry v. United States, 361 U.S. 98, 100 [80 S.Ct. 168, 170, 4 L.Ed.2d 134] (1959). Hostility to seizures based on mere suspicion was a prime motivation for the adoption of the Fourth Amendment, and decisions immediately after its adoption affirmed that 'common rumor or report, suspicion, or even "strong reason to suspect" was not adequate to support a warrant for arrest.' Id., at 101 (footnotes omitted). The familiar threshold standard of probable cause for Fourth Amendment seizures reflects the benefit of extensive experience accommodating the factors relevant to the 'reasonableness' requirement of the Fourth Amendment, and provides the relative simplicity and clarity necessary to the implementation of a workable rule. See Brinegar v. United States, [338 U.S., at 175-176, 69 S.Ct., at 1310-1311]." Id., at 213, 99 S.Ct., at 2256.

Although we refused in Dunaway to find an exception that would swallow the general rule, our opinion recognized that some seizures significantly less intrusive than an arrest have withstood scrutiny under the reasonableness standard embodied in the Fourth Amendment. In these cases the intru- sion on the citizen's privacy "was so much less severe" than that involved in a traditional arrest that "the opposing interests in crime prevention and detection and in the police officer's safety" could support the seizure as reasonable. Id., at 209, 99 S.Ct., at 2254.

In the first such case, Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889, the Court recognized the narrow authority of police officers who suspect criminal activity to make limited intrusions on an individual's personal security based on less than probable cause. The Court approved a "frisk" for weapons as a justifiable response to an officer's reasonable belief that he was dealing with a possibly armed and dangerous suspect.7 In the second such case, Adams v. Williams, 407 U.S. 143, 92 S.Ct. 1921, 32 L.Ed.2d 612, the Court relied on Terry to hold that an officer could forcibly stop a suspect to investigate an informant's tip that the suspect was armed and carrying narcotics.8 And in United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. 873, 95 S.Ct. 2574, 45 L.Ed.2d 607, the Court held that the special enforcement problems confronted by roving Border Patrol agents, though not sufficient to justify random stops of vehi- cles near the Mexican border to question their occupants about their citizenship, id., at 882-884, 95 S.Ct., at 2580-2581,9 were adequate to support vehicle stops based on the agents' awareness of specific articulable facts indicating that the vehicle contained illegal aliens. The Court reasoned that the difficulty in patrolling the long Mexican border and the interest in controlling the influx of illegal aliens justified the limited intrusion, usually lasting no more than a minute, involved in the stop. Id., at 878-880, 95 S.Ct., at 2578, 2579.10 See also United States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 101 S.Ct. 690, 66 L.Ed.2d 621.

These cases recognize that some seizures admittedly covered by the Fourth Amendment constitute such limited intrusions on the personal security of those detained and are justified by such substantial law enforcement interests that they may be made on less than probable cause, so long as police have an articulable basis for suspecting criminal activity. In these cases, as inDunaway, the Court was applying the ultimate standard of reasonableness embodied in the Fourth Amendment.11 They are consistent with the general rule that every arrest, and every seizure having the essential...

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