Illinois v. McArthur

LOCATION: Milford Central School

DOCKET NO.: 99-1132
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 531 US 326 (2001)
ARGUED: Nov 01, 2000
DECIDED: Feb 20, 2001

Deanne F. Jones - Argued the cause for the respondent
Joel D. Bertocchi - Chicago, Illinois, argued the cause for the petitioner
Matthew D. Roberts - Department of Justice, on behalf of the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the petitioner

Facts of the case

In 1997, Tera McArthur asked two police officers to accompany her to her trailer, where she lived with her husband, Charles McArthur, so that they could keep the peace while she removed her belongings. While at the trailer, Tera alerted the officers, Assistant Chief John Love and Officer Richard Skidis, that her husband had marijuana hidden under the couch. Love then asked Charles for permission to search the trailer. Permission was denied and Love sent Officer Skidis with Tera to get a search warrant. Love told Charles he could not reenter his trailer, unless a police officer accompanied him. Afterwards, Love stood just inside the door to observe Charles when he went into the trailer. About two hours later, a search warrant was obtained. Subsequently, a search of the trailer transpired and officers found drug paraphernalia and marijuana. Charles McArthur was arrested. At trial, McArthur moved to suppress the drug paraphernalia and marijuana on the ground that they were the "fruit" of an unlawful police seizure, namely, the refusal to let him reenter the trailer unaccompanied, which would have permitted him, he said, to "have destroyed the marijuana." The trial court granted the motion. The Appellate Court of Illinois affirmed and the Illinois Supreme Court denied the state's petition for leave to appeal.


Do officers, with probable cause to believe that a man had hidden marijuana in his home, who subsequently prevent that man from entering the home for about two hours while they obtain a search warrant, violate the Fourth Amendment?

Media for Illinois v. McArthur

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 01, 2000 in Illinois v. McArthur

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - February 20, 2001 in Illinois v. McArthur

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 99-1132, Illinois versus McArthur will be announced by Justice Breyer.

Stephen G. Breyer:

Tera McArthur asked two police officers to accompany her to a trailer home where she lived with her husband Charles, so that she could take her belongings out of the home.

Just after she came out of the trailer with her things she told the police that Charles had some drugs inside.

The police knocked, they asked Charles if they could search, he said no, he then came out of the trailer and eventually one of the policeman stopped Charles from going back into the trailer while the other one went off to get a warrant.

The Illinois Court later held at the trial of Charles McArthur that this police restrained stopping him from going back into the trailer, while they were going to look for a search warrant, violated the Fourth Amendment.

Today we disagree with that conclusion.

We have examined the restraint that the police imposed in order to decide whether it was reasonable in Fourth Amendment terms, and we conclude that it was.

The police had probable cause to believe that McArthur’s trailer home contain drugs.

There are both evidence of a crime and contraband.

They had good reason to fear that unless restrained Charles McArthur would destroy the drugs before they could come back with the warrant.

They imposed the restraint for a limited time, two hours; during that time they acted with diligence to obtain a warrant, and hence consequently in imposing this limited restraint for a limited time they made reasonable efforts to reconcile law enforcement needs with the demands of personal privacy.

We do not believe the Fourth Amendment requires more.

For these and related reasons we revere the Illinois Court’s contrary determination.

Justice Souter has filed a concurring opinion; Justice Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion.