United States v. Place

United States v. Place Case Brief

United States Supreme Court
462 U.S. 696 (1983)

ISSUE: Is a 90-minute detention of a traveler's luggage in order to subject the bag to a dog sniff an unreasonable seizure under the 4th Amdt. if it was part of a Terry stop?
HOLDING: Yes.
FACTS:
  • Police at Miami Intl. Airport suspected D of criminal activity so they approached him and found that the addresses on the luggage tags of the suitcases he was carrying were differnet
  • Officers alerted DEA agents in NY that D would be arriving, and so the DEA agents approached him upon landing and asked for his ID and ticket
  • D refused consent to search his luggage, so the officers told him that they would have seize his luggage, which they did
  • The officers held the bags for 90 minutes in order to subject them to a dog sniff, and the dog altered positively to one bag
  • The agents held the bags over the weekend, and after securing a warrant the next Monday morning, they found cocaine in one of the bags
REASONING:
  • Reasonable suspicion may be enough: Some detentions of personal effects may be so minimally intrusive that strong countervailing govt. interests will justify a seizure based on specific articulable facts that the property contains contraband or evidence of a crime
    • When an officer's observations lead him reasonably to believe that a traveler is carrying luggage containing narcotics, the principles ofTerry would permit the officer to detain the luggage briefly to investigate the circumstances that aroused his suspicions, provided the investigative detention is limited in scope
  • Canine sniff not a search: A canine sniff does not constitute a "search" under the 4th Amdt.
  • Seizure her exceed scope: The seizure of the luggage here for 90 minutes exceeded the permissible limits of aTerry stop of the bags
    • Same limitations applicable to an investigative detention of persons applies to personal effects

CONCURRENCE - Brennan: Balancing test inappropriate because PC always required for seizures of property

COMMENTS:
  • We learn from this case the very important point that a dog sniff is not a "search" for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment. Thus, the police may run a dog over a car or other personal property in order to detect the presence of contraband without invoking the Fourth Amendment's protections.
  • This case comes out the way it does because while officers may properly have a dog sniff a person's luggage, they may not seize the luggage for an extended period of time in order to do this.

 

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