Bond v. United States - Oral Argument - February 29, 2000

Bond v. United States

Media for Bond v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - April 17, 2000 in Bond v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 29, 2000 in Bond v. United States

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument first this morning in Number 98-9349, Steven Dewayne Bond v. The United States.

Ms. Fuentes.

M. Carolyn Fuentes:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:--

Mr. Bond's case presents the question whether a search occurs for purposes of the Fourth Amendment when a law enforcement officer manipulates a bus passenger's carry on luggage to determine its contents.

If manipulation of luggage is not a search, then law officers will be able to squeeze and feel carry on luggage, as Agent Cantu did in Mr. Bond's case, free from judicial scrutiny in criminal cases and without any Fourth Amendment requirement that their actions be reasonable.

Over 30 years ago, in Terry v. Ohio, this Court said that it is sheet torture of the English language to suggest that a careful exploration all over the outer clothing of a person's body is not a search.

The same can be said in this case.

The principles in Terry, as well as those in Dickerson v. Minnesota, govern this case.

Now, the Government says that they do not and says, instead, this Court's public exposure cases govern the determination in Mr. Bond's case.

The flaw in the Government's argument is that it fails to recognize that on the line between Dickerson and Terry on the one hand and the public exposure cases on the other, Mr. Bond's case falls far closer to the facts, circumstances, and legal principles in Dickerson and in Terry.

For example, Terry and Dickerson involved searches of outer clothing being worn by a person.

Outer clothing, the pockets of outer clothing in particular, serve the function of being a repository of personal effects.

We commonly carry our personal effects on our clothing, in our pockets.

A travel bag, like the one Mr. Bond carried, serves the same function.

Antonin Scalia:

But the difference... the difference, Ms. Fuentes, if there is one, I mean, the difference asserted, is whether there's a reasonable expectation of privacy, and you do have a reasonable expectation of privacy in your clothing.

You don't expect somebody to come up and frisk you.

M. Carolyn Fuentes:

I think that's--

Antonin Scalia:

But you don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy, your opponents will say, in a soft bag that you chuck into a... you know, a carrier on the airplane.

You know that other passengers can go there and feel it.

M. Carolyn Fuentes:

--Well, of course, we dispute that, Your Honor.

We think that Mr. Bond did have a reasonable expectation of privacy in his luggage, and he had a reasonable expectation to be free from a Government tactile examination of that luggage.

Antonin Scalia:

But... now, how can that be?

Did he have a reasonable expectation other passengers would not be able to feel the luggage and see what was in it?

M. Carolyn Fuentes:

He reasonably expected that other passengers might push or move the luggage if they needed to make room for their own, but that is not what Agent Cantu did.

Antonin Scalia:

They couldn't have squeezed it?

M. Carolyn Fuentes:

I think they could have squeezed it, but again that is not what Agent Cantu did.

When we get on a bus and we put our luggage overhead, the expectation is that if another passenger needs to come aboard and needs room in that luggage bin, maybe he will push it, maybe he will pull it, I think maybe he could squeeze it.

Antonin Scalia:

But there are some nasty passengers who may go beyond that.

Let's analogize it to the situation where you leave your window shades up.

Now, you don't expect your neighbors to peek into your room, but you don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and the police are entitled to observe what is going on in the room if you leave the shades up, isn't that right?