Ybarra v. Illinois

Decision Date28 November 1979
Docket NumberNo. 78-5937,78-5937
Citation444 U.S. 85,100 S.Ct. 338,62 L.Ed.2d 238
PartiesVentura E. YBARRA, Appellant, v. State of ILLINOIS
CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Syllabus

On the strength of a complaint for a search warrant based on an informant's statements that he had observed tinfoil packets on the person of a bartender and behind the bar at a certain tavern and that he had been advised by the bartender that the latter would have heroin for sale on a certain date, a judge of an Illinois state court issued a warrant authorizing the search of the tavern and the person of the bartender for "evidence of the offense of possession of a controlled substance." Upon entering the tavern to execute the warrant, police officers announced their purpose and advised those present that they were going to conduct a "cursory search for weapons." The officer who searched the customers felt what he described as "a cigarette pack with objects in it" in his first patdown of appellant, one of the customers. The officer did not then remove this pack from appellant's pocket but, after patting down other customers, returned to appellant, frisked him again, retrieved the cigarette pack from his pants pocket, and found inside it six tinfoil packets containing heroin. After appellant was indicted for unlawful possession of a controlled substance, he filed a pretrial motion to suppress the contraband seized from his person at the tavern. The trial court denied the motion, finding that the search had been conducted under the authority of an Illinois statute which empowers law enforcement officers executing a search warrant to detain and search any person found on the premises in order to protect themselves from attack or to prevent the disposal or concealment of anything described in the warrant. Appellant was convicted, and the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed, holding that the Illinois statute was not unconstitutional in its application to the facts of this case.

Held : The searches of appellant and the seizure of what was in his pocket contravened the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Pp. 96-96.

(a) When the search warrant was issued the authorities had no probable cause to believe that any person found in the tavern, aside from the bartender, would be violating the law. The complaint for the warrant did not allege that the tavern was frequented by persons illegally purchasing drugs or that the informant had ever seen a patron of the tavern purchase drugs from the bartender or any other person. And probable cause to search appellant was still absent when the police executed the warrant; upon entering the tavern, the police did not recognize appellant and had no reason to believe that he had committed, was committing, or was about to commit any offense. The police did possess a warrant based on probable cause to search the tavern where appellant happened to be when the warrant was executed, but a person's mere propinquity to others independently suspected of criminal activity does not, without more, give rise to probable cause to search that person. Sibron v. New York, 392 U.S. 40, 62-63, 88 S.Ct. 1889, 1902, 20 L.Ed.2d 917. Although the warrant gave the officers authority to search the premises and the bartender, it gave them no authority to invade the constitutional protections possessed individually by the tavern's customers. Pp. 90-92.

(b) Nor was the action of the police constitutionally permissible on the theory that the first search of appellant constituted a reasonable frisk for weapons under the doctrine of Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 and yielded probable cause to believe that appellant was carrying narcotics, thus justifying the second search for which no warrant was required in light of the exigencies of the situation coupled with the ease with which appellant could have disposed of the illegal substance. A reasonable belief that a person is armed and presently dangerous must form the predicate to a patdown of the person for weapons. Here, the State is unable to articulate any specific fact that would have justified a police officer at the scene in even suspecting that appellant was armed and dangerous. Pp. 92-93.

(c) The Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments will not be construed to permit evidence searches of persons who, at the commencement of the search, are on "compact" premises subject to a search warrant, even where the police have a "reasonable belief" that such persons "are connected with" drug trafficking and "may be concealing or carrying away the contraband." Cf. United States v. Di Re, 332 U.S. 581, 68 S.Ct. 222, 92 L.Ed. 210. Pp. 94-96.

58 Ill.App.3d 57, 15 Ill.Dec. 541, 373 N.E.2d 1013, reversed and remanded.

Alan D. Goldberg, Elgin, Ill., for appellant, pro hac vice, by special leave of Court; Ralph Ruebner and Mary Robinson, Deputy State Appellate Defenders, Elgin, Ill., on the briefs.

Melbourne A. Noel, Jr., Oak Park, Ill., for appellee.

Mr. Justice STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

An Illinois statute authorizes law enforcement officers to detain and search any person found on premises being searched pursuant to a search warrant, to protect themselves from attack or to prevent the disposal or concealment of anything described in the warrant.1 The question before us is whether the application of this statute to the facts of the present case violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

I

On March 1, 1976, a special agent of the Illinois Bureau of Investigation presented a "Complaint for Search Warrant" to a judge of an Illinois Circuit Court. The complaint recited that the agent had spoken with an informant known to the police to be reliable and:

"3. The informant related . . . that over the weekend of 28 and 29 February he was in the [Aurora Tap Tavern, located in the city of Aurora, Ill.] and observed fif- teen to twenty-five tin-foil packets on the person of the bartender 'Greg' and behind the bar. He also has been in the tavern on at least ten other occasions and has observed tin-foil packets on 'Greg' and in a drawer behind the bar. The informant has used heroin in the past and knows that tin-foil packets are a common method of packaging heroin.

"4. The informant advised . . . that over the weekend of 28 and 29 February he had a conversation with 'Greg' and was advised that 'Greg' would have heroin for sale on Monday, March 1, 1976. This conversation took place in the tavern described."

On the strength of this complaint, the judge issued a warrant authorizing the search of "the following person or place: . . . [T]he Aurora Tap Tavern. . . . Also the person of 'Greg', the bartender, a male white with blondish hair appx. 25 years." The warrant authorized the police to search for "evidence of the offense of possession of a controlled substance," to wit, "[h]eroin, contraband, other controlled substances, money, instrumentalities and narcotics, paraphernalia used in the manufacture, processing and distribution of controlled substances."

In the late afternoon of that day, seven or eight officers proceeded to the tavern. Upon entering it, the officers announced their purpose and advised all those present that they were going to conduct a "cursory search for weapons." One of the officers then proceeded to patdown each of the 9 to 13 customers present in the tavern, while the remaining officers engaged in an extensive search of the premises.

The police officer who frisked the patrons found the appellant, Ventura Ybarra, in front of the bar standing by a pinball machine. In his first patdown of Ybarra, the officer felt what he described as "a cigarette pack with objects in it." He did not remove this pack from Ybarra's pocket. Instead, he moved on and proceeded to patdown other customers. After completing this process the officer returned to Ybarra and frisked him once again. This second search of Ybarra took place approximately 2 to 10 minutes after the first. The officer relocated and retrieved the cigarette pack from Ybarra's pants pocket. Inside the pack he found six tinfoil packets containing a brown powdery substance which later turned out to be heroin.

Ybarra was subsequently indicted by an Illinois grand jury for the unlawful possession of a controlled substance. He filed a pretrial motion to suppress all the contraband that had been seized from his person at the Aurora Tap Tavern. At the hearing on this motion the State sought to justify the search by reference to the Illinois statute in question. The trial court denied the motion to suppress, finding that the search had been conducted under the authority of subsection (b) of the statute, to "prevent the disposal or concealment of [the] things particularly described in the warrant." The case proceeded to trial before the court sitting without a jury, and Ybarra was found guilty of the possession of heroin.

On appeal, the Illinois Appellate Court held that the Illinois statute was not unconstitutional "in its application to the facts" of this case. 58 Ill.App.3d 57, 64, 15 Ill.Dec. 541, 545, 373 N.E.2d 1013, 1017. The court acknowledged that, had the warrant directed that a "large retail or commercial establishment" be searched, the statute could not constitutionally have been read to "authorize a 'blanket search' of persons or patrons found" therein. Id., at 62, 15 Ill.Dec., at 544, 373 N.E.2d at 1016. The court interpreted the statute as authorizing the search of persons found on premises described in a warrant only if there is "some showing of a connection with those premises, that the police officer reasonably suspected an attack, or that the person searched would destroy or conceal items described in the warrant." Id., at 61, 15 Ill.Dec. at 544, 373 N.E.2d, at 1016. Accordingly, the State Appellate Court found that the search of Ybarra had been constitutional because it had been "conducted in a one-room bar where it [was] obvious...

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