Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.


decided: June 22, 1981.



Stevens, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Burger, C. J., and White, Blackmun, Powell, and Rehnquist, JJ., joined. Stewart, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Brennan and Marshall, JJ., joined, post, p. 706.

Author: Stevens

[ 452 U.S. Page 693]

 JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.

As Detroit police officers were about to execute a warrant to search a house for narcotics, they encountered respondent descending the front steps. They requested his assistance in gaining entry and detained him while they searched the premises. After finding narcotics in the basement and ascertaining that respondent owned the house, the police arrested him, searched his person, and found in his coat pocket an envelope containing 8.5 grams of heroin.*fn1

[ 452 U.S. Page 694]

     Respondent was charged with possession of the heroin found on his person. He moved to suppress the heroin as the product of an illegal search in violation of the Fourth Amendment,*fn2 and the trial judge granted the motion and quashed the information. That order was affirmed by a divided panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals, 68 Mich. App. 571, 243 N. W. 2d 689, and by the Michigan Supreme Court over the dissent of three of its justices. 407 Mich. 432, 286 N. W. 2d 226. We granted the State's petition for certiorari, 449 U.S. 898, and now reverse.


The dispositive question in this case is whether the initial detention of respondent violated his constitutional right to be secure against an unreasonable seizure of his person. The State attempts to justify the eventual search of respondent's person by arguing that the authority to search premises granted by the warrant implicitly included the authority to search persons on those premises, just as that authority included an authorization to search furniture and containers in which the particular things described might be concealed. But as the Michigan Court of Appeals correctly noted, even if otherwise acceptable, this argument could not justify the initial detention of respondent outside the premises described in the warrant. See 68 Mich. App., at 578-580, 243 N. W. 2d,

[ 452 U.S. Page 695]

     at 692-693. If that detention was permissible, there is no need to reach the question whether a search warrant for premises includes the right to search persons found there, because when the police searched respondent, they had probable cause to arrest him and had done so.*fn3 Our appraisal of the validity of the search of respondent's person therefore depends upon a determination whether the officers had the authority to require him to re-enter the house and to remain there while they conducted their search.*fn4

[ 452 U.S. Page 696]


In assessing the validity of respondent's initial detention, we note first that it constituted a "seizure" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.*fn5 The State does not contend otherwise, and the record demonstrates that respondent was not free to leave the premises while the officers were searching his home. It is also clear that respondent was not formally arrested until after the search was completed. The dispute therefore involves only the constitutionality of a pre-arrest "seizure" which we assume was unsupported by probable cause.

In Dunaway v. New York, 442 U.S. 200, the Court reaffirmed the general rule that an official seizure of the person must be supported by probable cause, even if no formal arrest is made. In that case police officers located a murder suspect at a neighbor's house, took him into custody, and transported him to the police station, where interrogation ultimately produced a confession. Because the suspect was not arrested until after he had confessed, and because he presumably would have been set free if probable cause had not been established during his questioning, the State argued that the pre-arrest detention should not be equated with an arrest and should be upheld as "reasonable" in view of the serious character of the crime and the fact that the police had an articulable basis for suspecting that Dunaway was involved. Id., at 207. The Court firmly rejected the State's argument, noting that "the detention of petitioner was in

[ 452 U.S. Page 697]

     important respects indistinguishable from a traditional arrest." Id., at 212.*fn6 We stated:

"Indeed, any 'exception' that could cover a seizure as intrusive as that in this case would threaten to swallow the general rule that Fourth Amendment seizures are 'reasonable' only if based on probable cause.

"The central importance of the probable-cause requirement to the protection of a citizen's privacy afforded by the Fourth Amendment's guarantees cannot be compromised in this fashion. 'The requirement of probable cause has roots that are deep in our history.' Henry v. United States, 361 U.S. 98, 100 (1959). Hostility to seizures based on mere suspicion was a prime motivation for the adoption of the Fourth Amendment, and decisions immediately after its adoption affirmed that 'common rumor or report, suspicion, or even "strong reason to suspect" was not adequate to support a warrant for arrest.' Id., at 101 (footnotes omitted). The familiar threshold standard of probable cause for Fourth Amendment seizures reflects the benefit of extensive experience accommodating the factors relevant to the 'reasonableness' requirement of the Fourth Amendment, and provides the relative simplicity and clarity necessary to the implementation of a workable rule. See Brinegar v. United States, [338 U.S., at 175-176]." Id., at 213.

Although we refused in Dunaway to find an exception that would swallow the general rule, our opinion recognized that some seizures significantly less intrusive than an arrest have withstood scrutiny under the reasonableness standard embodied in the Fourth Amendment. In these cases the intrusion

[ 452 U.S. Page 698]

     on the citizen's privacy "was so much less severe" than that involved in a traditional arrest that "the opposing interests in crime prevention and detection and in the police officer's safety" could support the seizure as reasonable. Id., at 209.

In the first such case, Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, the Court recognized the narrow authority of police officers who suspect criminal activity to make limited intrusions on an individual's personal security based on less than probable cause. The Court approved a "frisk" for weapons as a justifiable response to an officer's reasonable belief that he was dealing with a possibly armed and dangerous suspect.*fn7 In the second such case, Adams v. Williams, 407 U.S. 143, the Court relied on Terry to hold that an officer could forcibly stop a suspect to investigate an informant's tip that the suspect was armed and carrying narcotics.*fn8 And in United States v. ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.