Reid v. Georgia

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation448 U.S. 438,100 S.Ct. 2752,65 L.Ed.2d 890
Docket NumberNo. 79-448,79-448
PartiesTommy REID, Jr. v. State of GEORGIA
Decision Date30 June 1980

448 U.S. 438
100 S.Ct. 2752
65 L.Ed.2d 890
Tommy REID, Jr.


State of GEORGIA.

No. 79-448.
June 30, 1980.


The petitioner was indicted in the Superior Court of Fulton County, Ga., for possessing cocaine. At a hearing before trial, he moved to suppress the introduction of the cocaine as evidence against him on the ground that it had been seized from him by an agent of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in violation of his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Page 439

The relevant facts were determined at the pretrial hearing and may be recounted briefly. The petitioner arrived at the Atlanta Airport on a commercial airline flight from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in the early morning hours of August 14, 1978. The passengers left the plane in a single file and proceeded through the concourse. The petitioner was observed by an agent of the DEA, who was in the airport for the purpose of uncovering illicit commerce in narcotics. Separated from the petitioner by several persons was another man, who carried a shoulder bag like the one the petitioner carried. As they proceeded through the concourse past the baggage claim area, the petitioner occasionally looked backward in the direction of the second man. When they reached the main lobby of the terminal, the second man caught up with the petitioner and spoke briefly with him. They then left the terminal building together.

The DEA agent approached them outside of the building, identified himself as a federal narcotics agent, and asked them to show him their airline ticket stubs and identification, which they did. The airline tickets had been purchased with the petitioner's credit card and indicated that the men had stayed in Fort Lauderdale only one day. According to the agent's testimony, the men appeared nervous during the encounter. The agent then asked them if they would agree to return to the terminal and to consent to a search of their persons and their shoulder bags. The agent testified that the petitioner nodded his head affirmatively, and that the other responded, "Yeah, okay." As the three of them entered the terminal, however, the petitioner began to run and before he was apprehended, abandoned his shoulder bag. The bag, when recovered, was found to contain cocaine.

The Superior Court granted the petitioner's motion to suppress the cocaine, concluding that it had been obtained as a result of a seizure of him by the DEA agent without an articulable suspicion that he was unlawfully carrying narcotics. The Georgia Court of Appeals reversed. 149 Ga.App. 685,

Page 440

255 S.E.2d 71. It held that the stop of the petitioner was permissible, citing Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968), since the petitioner, "in a number of respects, fit a 'profile' of drug couriers compiled by the [DEA]." 149 Ga.App., at 686, 255 S.E.2d, at 72. The appellate court also concluded that the petitioner had consented to return to the terminal for a search of his person, and that after he had attempted to flee and had discarded his shoulder bag, there existed probable cause for the search of the bag.

The Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments' prohibition of searches and seizures that are not supported by some objective justification governs all seizures of the person, "including seizures that involve only a brief detention short of traditional arrest. Davis v. Mississippi, 394 U.S. 721, 89 S.Ct. 1394, 22 L.Ed.2d 676 (1969); Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 16-19, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 1877-1878, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968)." United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. 873, 878, 95 S.Ct. 2574, 2578, 45 L.Ed.2d 607 (1975).* While the Court has recognized that in some circumstances a person may be detained briefly, without probable cause to arrest him, any curtailment of a person's liberty by the police must be supported at least by a reasonable and articulable suspicion that the person seized is engaged in criminal activity. See Brown v. Texas, 443 U.S. 47, 51, 99 S.Ct. 2637, 2640, 61 L.Ed.2d 357 (1979); Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 661, 99 S.Ct. 1391, 1400, 59 L.Ed.2d 660 (1979); United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, supra ; Adams v. Williams, 407 U.S. 143,...

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