Arizona v. Hicks Case Brief

Facts of the case

A bullet was fired through the floor of Hicks’s apartment which injured a man in the apartment below. To investigate the shooting, police officers entered Hicks’s apartment and found three weapons along with a stocking mask. During the search, which was done without a warrant, an officer noticed some expensive stereo equipment which he suspected had been stolen. The officer moved some of the components, recorded their serial numbers, and seized them upon learning from police headquarters that his suspicions were correct.

Why is the case important?

When investigating a shooting in an apartment, a police officer moved certain stereo equipment, which was very fancy and looked out of place, and learned that it had been taken during an armed robbery.

Question

Did the officer’s conduct constitute a seizure?
Did the officer’s conduct constitute a search?
Can the plain view doctrine be invoked when the police have less than probable cause to believe that the item in question is evidence of a crime or is contraband? Was the search reasonable under the Fourth Amendment?

ANSWER

No. The majority first observed “the mere recording of the serial numbers did not constitute a seizure.”
Yes. The court observed that the officer’s moving of the equipment did “constitute a ‘search’ separate and apart from the search for the shooter, victims, and weapons that was the lawful objective of his entry into the apartment.” The officer’s actions were “unrelated to the objectives of the authorized intrusion, [and] exposed to view concealed portions of the apartment or its contents, did produce a new invasion of respondent’s privacy unjustified by the exigent circumstance that validated the entry.”

CONCLUSION

The Court held that that the officer’s moving of the equipment constituted a searchseparate and apart from the search for the shooter, victims, and weapons that was the lawful objective of his entry. Such a search was not reasonableunder the Fourth Amendment because it was not sustainable under the plain viewdoctrine absent probable cause, which was not present by the State’s admission.

  • Advocates: John W. Rood, III By appointment of the Court, argued the cause for the respondent Linda A. Akers Argued the cause for the petitioner John William Rood for respondent
  • Petitioner: Arizona
  • Respondent: Hicks
  • DECIDED BY:Rehnquist Court
  • Location: Apartment of Hicks
Citation: 480 US 321 (1987)
Argued: Dec 8, 1986
Decided: Mar 3, 1987
Arizona v. Hicks Case Brief