LOCATION: Residence of Ellis Gregory
DOCKET NO.: 90-622
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1990-1991)
LOWER COURT: Florida Supreme Court
CITATION: 500 US 248 (1991)
ARGUED: Mar 25, 1991
DECIDED: May 23, 1991
John G. Roberts, Jr. - for the U.S., as amicus curiae, supporting the petitioner, by special leave of Court
Jeffrey S. Weiner - Argued the case for the respondents
Michael J. Neimand - Argued the case for the petitioners
Facts of the case
A Dade County police officer overheard Enio Jimeno arranging what appeared to be a drug transaction over a public telephone. He followed in his car, and eventually pulled Jimeno over for a traffic violation. He told him he had reason to believe Jimeno had drugs in the car, and asked for permission to search it. Jimeno consented, and a search revealed a brown paper bag with cocaine inside it. At trial, Jimeno argued that his consent to the search of the car did not extend to the closed paper bag within the car. The trial court agreed, excluded the drugs found inside the bag as the product of an unconstitutional search under the Fourth Amendment. The Florida District Court of Appeal and the Florida Supreme Court both affirmed.
Does a suspect's consent to a search of his vehicle extend to closed containers found inside?
Media for Florida v. JimenoAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 25, 1991 in Florida v. Jimeno
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - May 23, 1991 in Florida v. Jimeno
William H. Rehnquist:
The third case which I have to announce is Florida against Jimeno No. 90-622.
The respondent in this case, Louis Jimeno, was stopped by the police in Florida for a traffic violation.
The police asked him for permission to search his car for drugs.
Jimeno gave his consent.
The police searched and discovered a paper bag containing a killer gram of cocaine on the floorboard of the car.
The Florida Supreme Court suppressed this evidence based upon its view that under the Fourth Amendment, a general consent to the search of ones car does not extend to close containers such as the bag found here in the car.
In an opinion filed with the clerk today, we reverse the decision of the Supreme Court of Florida.
The scope of a consent search is defined by the terms of the consent.
A police officer here told Jimeno he had reason to suspect there were narcotics in the car.
He asked for permission to search it.
Jimeno granted permission, placed no limitation on the consent.
Under these circumstances, it was objectively reasonable for the officer to believe that Jimenos consent extended to a paper bag lying on the floor of the car, a bag which might contain drugs.
A reasonable officer would know that narcotics are generally carried in some form of container.
The Fourth Amendment requires only that a search be reasonable under the terms of the consent and we hold that this one was reasonable.
Justice Marshall has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Stevens joined.