United States Supreme Court, 1991.
Statement of the Case:
California contends that evidence seized from within the trunk of the vehicle, in which accused was riding at the time of his arrest, is admissible in court as the police had probable cause to search the vehicle.
Acevedo was convicted in California state court with possession of marijuana for sale and moved to suppress the marijuana found in the bag. His motion was denied, and he pleaded guilty but appealed the denial of the suppression motion. The California Court of Appeals ruled that the marijuana evidence should have been suppressed. The California Supreme Court denied review.
The police saw Acevedo enter and leave Daza's apartment, two hours after Daza had picked up a package that they knew contained marijuana. When Acevedo left Daza's apartment, he was carrying a bag approximately the size of one of the packages of marijuana. Acevedo put the package in the trunk of his car and drove away. The police stopped the car. They opened both the trunk and the bag, which contained marijuana as suspected by the police.
Whether the 4th Amendment require the police to obtain a search warrant in order to search a container or package in a car when there is probable cause to support a search of the entire vehicle.
Judgment reversed and remanded for State.
A warrant is not required to search a container, package, or compartment within a vehicle provided that there is probable cause to believe that the object is in the vehicle.
- A warrant is not required to search a container, package, or compartment within a vehicle provided that there is probable cause to believe that the object is in the vehicle.
- This case resolved inconsistencies between cases involving searches of vehicles and searches of other movable containers, such as luggage or a paper bag in the trunk.
- Carroll permitted a warrantless search of an entire vehicle provided that the search was supported by probable cause. However, this doctrine was overbroad; it included areas where the police would have no reason to check.
- In this case, the car would have been impounded anyway, and once the police had possession, they would have been allowed to search the whole car.
- The decision, however, is limited to those areas where the police already had probable cause to search.
The vehicle exception to the 4th Amendment should be abandoned. Reasonable searches under the 4th Amendment should be interpreted consistently with common law, making it reasonable to search any closed container located outside a privately owned building provided there is probable cause for the search.
Dissent: (Stevens, J.)
The majority only gives lip service to the traditional presumption that searches without warrants are per se unreasonable under the 4th Amendment. There are no exceptional circumstances present to merit invading D's privacy interest.