Johnson v. United States

Johnson v. United States

United States Supreme Court
333 U.S. 10 (1948)

ISSUE: Did a police officer violate a D's 4th Amdt. rights by searching her hotel room without a warrant after the officer smelled a strong smell of burning opium and then knocked at the door and D let him in?
HOLDING: Yes.
FACTS:
  • Police received a tip from a CI, a known narcotic user, that unknown persons were smoking opium in the hotel
  • Police officers smelled a strong smell of opium outside D's hotel room
  • The officer knocked and then D let the officer in
  • The officer told D that she could consider herself under arrest and then proceeded to search the hotel room.  He found opium and a smoking apparatus.
PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
  • Dist. Ct. refused to suppress evidence
  • Ct. App. affirmed
RULES:
  • Taylor v. United States: Odors alone do not authorize a search without a warrant
REASONING:
  • PC for warrant existed: At the time of the entry, the officer had enough evidence to establish PC in order for a magistrate to issue a warrant (though they didn't seek one)
    • Taylor doesn't apply to the issuance of a search warrant
  • But 4th Amdt. requires decision by magistrates: 4th Amdt. protection consists in requiring that usual inferences which reasonable men draw from evidence be drawn by a neutral and detached magistrate instead of being judged by the officer engaged in the often competitive enterprise of ferreting out crime
    • When the right of privacy must reasonably yield to the right of search is, as a rule, to be decided by a judicial officer, not by a policeman or Government enforcement agent
  • Not an exception to the rule: This is not one of the exceptional cases where a warrantless search is called for
    • Delay in preparing the paperwork and presenting the evidence is never a very convincing reason for not seeking a warrant
  • Not search incident to arrest: Search cannot be justified because there was no probable cause to arrest D until the officer had entered her room and found her to be the sole occupant

 

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