Ohio v. Robinette

PETITIONER: Ohio
RESPONDENT: Robinette
LOCATION: Arkansas State Capitol

DOCKET NO.: 95-891
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: Ohio Supreme Court

CITATION: 519 US 33 (1996)
ARGUED: Oct 08, 1996
DECIDED: Nov 18, 1996

ADVOCATES:
Carley J. Ingram - Argued the cause for the petitioner
Irving L. Gornstein - Argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae, in support of the petitioner
James D. Ruppert - Argued the cause for the respondent
James D. Ruppert - for respondent

Facts of the case

After stopping Robinette for speeding, an Ohio deputy warned him, returned his license, and asked him if he had any illegal contraband, weapons, or drugs in his car. Robinette answered "no" but after agreeing to have his car searched, the officer found some marijuana and a pill that later proved to be a powerful drug. On appeal from the Ohio Court of Appeals' reversal of his lower court conviction for possession of a controlled substance, the Ohio Supreme Court Affirmed. The Supreme Court granted Ohio certiorari.

Question

Does the Fourth Amendment's protection against illegal search and seizures require that a lawfully detained defendant be told that he is "free to go" before he can be said to have voluntarily agreed to any subsequent search?

Media for Ohio v. Robinette

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 08, 1996 in Ohio v. Robinette

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument now in Number 95-891, Ohio v. Robert D. Robinette.

Mr. Ingram.

Oh, pardon me.

Ms. Ingram.

Carley J. Ingram:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court:

This case involves a traffic stop, a driver's consent to search, and the discovery of drugs in his car.

The question before the Court is whether the Fourth Amendment requires a police officer to warn a motorist at the end of a traffic stop that he's free to go, and that if the officer fails to give that warning, any cooperation by the motorist from that point on must be presumed to be involuntary.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

Under State law, does the officer have the discretion to give or not to give a ticket after he talks to the motorist?

Carley J. Ingram:

Your Honor, there is a statute that... if it is a traffic stop, the officer may simply cite the motorist if he has proof of identification, which doesn't have to be a driver's license.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

Does... is cite the same as giving a ticket?

Carley J. Ingram:

Oh, I'm sorry, I misunderstood your question.

He may cite or warn at his discretion.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

So he may cite or warn, and that obviously takes a certain amount of time to make that determination of what he's going to do?

I take it the officer has a certain amount of discretion.

Carley J. Ingram:

Yes, he does.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

And so he has to have a certain amount of time within which to exercise that discretion.

Carley J. Ingram:

That's correct, Your Honor.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

Once he says, I'm not going to give you a ticket, can he change his mind?

Carley J. Ingram:

He could change is mind, certainly, and give the ticket.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

If there's a flippant response, or a response that indicates that maybe the person has less regard for the law than the officer thought at first?

Carley J. Ingram:

Yes, Your Honor, that's correct, and the question would then become whether or not the officer's decision to change his mind when he told the person he wasn't going to give him the ticket and then decided to give the ticket would have an effect on whether or not the person felt then that he was free to leave, or he was being coerced in some--

Anthony M. Kennedy:

Quite without reference to a search, the officer would be entitled to detain the motorist after the officer changed his mind and said, well, based on what your remarks are, I've changed my mind.

I'm going to give you a ticket.

Carley J. Ingram:

--Yes, the officer could do that.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

There is no right to leave once the officer proceeds in that way until the ticket is written.

Carley J. Ingram:

Right, that's correct, until the ticket is written or the warning is given, yes, Your Honor.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

And that State law is consistent with our cases, and with the Fourth Amendment?

Carley J. Ingram:

Yes, Your Honor.

David H. Souter:

Let me ask you another nuts and bolts question.

When he decides to give a warning, as he did in this case, does he present the motorist with a document, a piece of paper that says, "warning"?