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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 98480 Find in a Library
Title: Fourth Amendment - Limited Luggage Seizures Valid on Reasonable Suspicion - United States v Place, 103 S Ct 2637 (1983)
Journal: Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology  Volume:74  Issue:4  Dated:(Winter 1983)  Pages:1225-1248
Author(s): L M Sickman
Date Published: 1983
Page Count: 24
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: In its decision in United States v. Place, the U.S. Supreme Court extended the scope of the Terry 'reasonable suspicion' doctrine to include some aspects of warrantless seizures of personal property.
Abstract: Because Raymond Place's behavior in an airport aroused the suspicion of two police observers, his luggage was seized for approximately 90 minutes. During this time, a trained narcotics detection dog performed a 'sniff test' on the luggage and reacted positively to one of the suitcases. After obtaining a search warrant, drug agents opened the suitcase and found 1,125 grams of cocaine. Indicted for possession of cocaine with intent to deliver, Place moved in the district court to suppress the evidence of the cocaine because his fourth amendment rights were violated by the warrantless seizure of his luggage. Upon the district court's denial of the motion and subsequent reversal by the circuit court of appeals, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to hear the case. The Court concluded that some brief, warrantless detentions of luggage based only on reasonable suspicion do not violate the fourth amendment, because the Government's interest in curbing narcotics trafficking, coupled with attendant enforcement problems, outweighs the minimal intrusion on the subject's protected privacy interests. In addition, the Court held that the exposure of Place's luggage, located in a public place, to a 'canine sniff' for investigatory purposes did not constitute a 'search' under the fourth amendment. Seizures of property, like those of persons, can vary in nature and extent; therefore, the Court appropriately applied the 'Terry' balancing test (state versus privacy interests) to airport detentions of luggage that constitute less than full-scale seizures. The Court, however, should have refrained from considering the 'canine sniff' issue even though general constitutional principles and precedent support the luggage seizure decision. A total of 132 footnotes are provided.
Index Term(s): Airport drug searches; Police dogs; Search and seizure; US Supreme Court decisions; Warrantless search
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