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ARKANSAS V. SANDERS, 442 U. S. 753 (1979)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Arkansas v. Sanders, 442 U.S. 753 (1979)

Arkansas v. Sanders

No. 77-1497

Argued February 27, 1979

Decided June 20, 1979

442 U.S. 753


Acting on an informant's information that respondent, upon arriving at an airport, would be carrying a green suitcase containing marihuana, Little Rock, Ark., police officers placed the airport under surveillance. They watched as respondent retrieved a green suitcase from the airline baggage service, placed it into the trunk of a taxi, and entered the vehicle with a companion. When the taxi drove away, two of the officers gave pursuit and stopped the vehicle several blocks from the airport, requesting the taxi driver to open the vehicle's trunk. Without asking the permission of respondent or his companion, the police opened the unlocked suitcase and discovered marihuana. Before trial in state court on a charge of possession of marihuana with intent to deliver, respondent moved to suppress the evidence obtained from the suitcase, contending that the search violated his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. The trial court denied the motion, and respondent was convicted. The Arkansas Supreme Court reversed, ruling that the marihuana should have been suppressed because it was obtained through an unlawful search of the suitcase.

Held: In the absence of exigent circumstances, police are required to obtain a warrant before searching luggage taken from an automobile properly stopped and searched for contraband. Cf. United States v. Chadwick, 433 U. S. 1. Pp. 442 U. S. 757-766.

(a) In the ordinary case, a search of private property must be both reasonable and pursuant to a properly issued search warrant. The mere reasonableness of a search, assessed in the light of the surrounding circumstances, is not a substitute for the judicial warrant required under the Fourth Amendment. P. 442 U. S. 758.

(b) The "automobile exception" from the warrant requirement, as set forth in Carroll v. United States, 267 U. S. 132, and its progeny, will not be extended to the warrantless search of one's personal luggage merely because it was located in an automobile lawfully stopped by the police. Luggage is a common repository for one's personal effects, and therefore is inevitably associated with the expectation of privacy. Once police have seized a suitcase from an automobile, the extent of its mobility is in no way affected by the place from which it was taken; accordingly, as a general rule, there is no greater need for warrantless searches of luggage taken from automobiles than of luggage taken from chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 442 U. S. 754

other places. Similarly, a suitcase taken from an automobile stopped on the highway is not necessarily attended by any lesser expectation of privacy than is associated with luggage taken from other locations. Where -- as in the present case -- the police, without endangering themselves or risking loss of the evidence, lawfully have detained one suspected of criminal activity and secured his suitcase, they should delay the search thereof until after judicial approval has been obtained. Pp. 442 U. S. 761-766.

262 Ark. 595, 559 S.W.2d 704, affirmed.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, STEWART, WHITE, and MARSHALL, JJ., joined. BURGER, C.J.,filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which STEVENS, J., joined, post, p. 442 U. S. 766. BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, J., joined, post, p. 442 U. S. 768.

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