Chambers v. Maroney Case Brief

Why is the case important?

A robbery suspect was arrested while riding in a car. The car was taken to the police station, searched, and yielded incriminating evidence.

Facts of the case

Question

Whether evidence seized from an automobile, in which petitioner was riding at the time of his arrest, after the automobile was taken to a police station and was there thoroughly searched without a warrant is admissible.

Answer

Yes. The court first referenced the Carroll case, which held that if an effective search of a car is to be made at any time, either the search must be made immediately without a warrant or the car itself must be seized and held without a warrant until a warrant is obtained. The court pointed out that probable clause applied in either circumstance, and so there is little to choose in terms of practical consequences between an immediate search without a warrant and the car’s immobilization until a warrant is obtained. Generally, the court held, the level of intrusion under the Fourth Amendment, immediate search vs. seizure in anticipation of a warrant, may depend on a variety of circumstances.

Conclusion

The Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the denial of Chambers’ petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The Court held that the warrantless search of the suspects’ car at the police station after Chambers and the other occupants were arrested for robbery did not violate the Fourth Amendment. The police had probable cause to stop the vehicle and to search it immediately at the time and place of arrest. The requirement of probable-cause still applied at the police station, and it was reasonable for police to take the car there before making the search. The Court also ruled that the district court properly denied Chambers a hearing on his claim pertaining to his right to the effective assistance of counsel.

  • Case Brief: 1970
  • Petitioner: Chambers
  • Respondent: Maroney
  • Decided by: Burger Court

Citation: 399 US 42 (1970)
Argued: Apr 27, 1970
Decided: Jun 22, 1970