Robbins v. California

PETITIONER: Jeffrey Richard Robbins
RESPONDENT: California
LOCATION: Highway 80 and Nelson Road

DOCKET NO.: 80-148
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 453 US 420 (1981)
ARGUED: Apr 27, 1981
DECIDED: Jul 01, 1981

ADVOCATES:
Mr. Andrew L. Frey - for the United States, as amioue curiae, by special leave of Court
Marshall Warren Krause - for petitioner
Ronald E. Niver - for respondents

Facts of the case

During the early morning hours of January 5, 1975, California Highway Patrol officers pulled over a the driver of a station wagon, Jeffrey Richard Robbins, for driving too slowly at speeds far below the minimum speed limit and drifting across the center lane. Upon smelling marijuana smoke as they approached the car, officers searched the passenger compartment, where they found marijuana. The officers then opened a recessed luggage compartment in the trunk and unwrapped two tightly sealed packages that each contained a pound of marijuana. Robbins was charged with several drug offenses. At trial, he argued that the evidence of the drugs was the product of an illegal search and filed a motion to suppress the evidence. The judge denied the motion, and a jury convicted Robbins. Robbins appealed, but the California Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment. The Supreme Court granted certiorari and remanded the case for the appellate court to consider in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in <i>Arkansas v. Sanders</i>, which established that officers could not search closed luggage found during a lawful automobile search. The California Court of Appeal affirmed Robbins conviction a second time on that grounds that Robbins did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy because the package’s contents could be inferred given the shape, size, and wrapping of the exterior.

Question

May police officers search closed containers found during a lawful, warrantless search of an automobile?

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