Arizona v. Hicks

LOCATION: Apartment of Hicks

DOCKET NO.: 85-1027
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 480 US 321 (1987)
ARGUED: Dec 08, 1986
DECIDED: Mar 03, 1987

John William Rood - for respondent
John W. Rood, III - By appointment of the Court, argued the cause for the respondent
Linda A. Akers - Argued the cause for the petitioner

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.


Was the search of the stereo equipment (a search beyond the exigencies of the original entry) reasonable under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments?

Media for Arizona v. Hicks

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 08, 1986 in Arizona v. Hicks

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 03, 1987 in Arizona v. Hicks

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 85-1027, Arizona versus Hicks will be announced by Justice Scalia.

Antonin Scalia:

This is a petition for certiorari to the Court of Appeals of Arizona.

The essential facts are as follows.

A bullet was fired through the floor of Hicks' apartment, injuring a man in the room below.

Police entered the apartment to search for the shooter, for other victims, and for weapons.

They found and seized three weapons including a sawed-off riffle and saw in one of the rooms a stocking-cap mask.

One of the policemen, Officer Nelson, noticed two sets of expensive stereo components which seemed out of place in what was otherwise an ill-appointed apartment.

Suspecting that these components were stolen he moved some of them in order to read and record their serial numbers and reported these numbers by phone to his headquarters.

After learning that one of them, the turntable had been taken in an armed robbery he seized it.

When Hicks was indicted for the robbery the State Trial Court granted his motion to suppress the evidence that had been seized as a consequence of the discovery of the turntable's serial number.

The Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed.

In this Court the state has conceded that prior to disturbing the turntable, Officer Nelson did not have probable cause to believe it had been stolen.

We therefore do not consider that issue.

The state asserts however that Officer Nelson did have a reasonable suspicion and that this was sufficient to satisfy the Fourth Amendment, in light of the minimal intrusion on Hicks' privacy that the search produced.

The reasons discussed in the filed opinion, we hold that probable cause is required for search of an object that lawfully comes within a police officer's plain view, just as it would be required for its seizure.

And we hold that the moving of stereo equipment to expose to view what had been concealed constituted a search.

We reject the concept of some third category of police action between search and non search which can be justified on a basis less than probable cause.

Justice Powell has filed a dissenting opinion in which the Chief Justice and Justice O'Connor have joined; Justice O'Connor has filed a dissenting opinion in which the Chief Justice and Justice Powell have joined.