Sunday, December 22, 2013

Florida v. Bostick case brief

Florida v. Bostick case brief summary
501 U.S. 429 (1991)

Petitioner State obtained a writ of certiorari for the review of a decision by the Supreme Court of Florida, which reversed respondent's plea of guilty for drug trafficking and held that the illegal drugs found in respondent's luggage should have been suppressed because respondent's consent to the search of his luggage was involuntary.

Respondent was travelling on an inter-city bus that was at a stopover, when police boarded the bus. Without any reasonable suspicion, they asked respondent's consent to search his luggage. Respondent gave his consent, police found illegal drugs, and respondent pled guilty to drug trafficking.


  • On appeal, the state supreme court reversed, holding that because respondent was on a bus, he was not free to leave the bus without the risk of being stranded, and his consent was involuntary. 
  • On certiorari, the court held that if the police indicated that respondent was free to refuse consent and terminate the encounter, and that the police would not detain him if he refused, his consent was voluntary. 
  • Because there was no finding by the lower court using that standard, the court reversed the decision of the state supreme court and remanded the case to determine if, under the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable person would have felt free to refuse to cooperate with the police, and thus determine if respondent's consent was voluntary.

The court reversed the decision and remanded the case to determine whether respondent's consent to search was voluntary under the totality of the circumstances.

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