Bond v. United States

Bond v. United States

United States Supreme Court
529 U.S. 334 (2000)

ISSUE: Is it a 4th Amdt. search when a border patrol agent squeezes hard a passenger's soft-sided carry-on bag that is on located in the overhead bin above the passenger's seat and feels a brick-like object inside the bag?
HOLDING: Yes.
FACTS:
  • D was traveling via bus when a border patrol agent boarded the bus at a permanent checkpoint to check the immigration status of the passengers
  • The agent squeezed the carry-on luggage in the overhead bins and felt a brick-like object in D's bag
PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
  • Trial Ct. and Ct. App. refused to suppress evidence obtained through squeezing the bag
RULES:
  1. Whether the individual, by his conduct, has exhibited an actual expectation of privacy - whether he has shown that he sought to preserve something as private
  2. Whether the individual's expectation of privacy is one that society is prepared to recognize as reasonable
REASONING:
  • Bag = "effect": Bag was an "effect" protected under the 4th Amdt.
    • Even though the bag was not on D's person, it is still personal space that one uses to transport personal items
  • Physical invasion = intrusion: Tactile observation is physically invasive inspection that is simply more intrusive than purely visual inspection like in Ciraolo
  • 4th Amdt. analysis:
    • D sought to preserve privacy by using an opaque bag and placing it directly above his seat
    • D's expectation was reasonable because he did not expect that other passengers would feel the bag in an exploratory manner

DISSENT - Breyer:

  • Traveler does not have a reasonable expectation that strangers will not feel his luggage
  • Agent Cantu testified that border patrol officers routinely check luggage in the manner that he did with D's bag
  • One's privacy expectations must be against everyone, just not government agents
    • One cannot reasonably expect privacy of objects that he knowingly exposes to the public
  • Just like it was likely that one flying over a backyard inCiraolo would see the marijuana, it is likely that someone would squeeze D's bag here
  • While the agent's purpose here was dramatically different than the intention of fellow passengers in touching D's bag, it is the effect and not the purpose that matters in determining whether an expectation of privacy is reasonable
  • Cannot accept majority's attempt to distinguish between tactile and visual interventions

 

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