Sibron v. New York

Facts of the Case

Defendants, convicted of crimes on the basis of evidence seized from their persons by police officers, sought review of a decision of the Court of Appeals of New York, claiming that N.Y. Code Crim. Proc. § 180-a was unconstitutional on its face and as construed and applied, because the searches and seizures that it was held to have authorized violated their rights under the


Do the broad search powers conferred on New York State police officers under the State’s stop-and-frisk law violate the Fourth Amendment’s search and seizure protections?


In an 8-to-1 decision, the Court began by noting that although states may grant police officers great latitude in making arrests, all search and seizures are subject to constitutional limitations. In Sibron’s case, the Court noted that officer Martinez never actually heard any of the conversations between Sibron and the narcotics addicts. As such, the inference that Sibron engaged in narcotics trafficking merely because he spoke with drug addicts did not constitute probably cause for a warrantless search. Moreover, Martinez’s actions could not be justified as a self-protective search for weapons since he admitted that he had no reason to suspect Sibron of concealment. With respect to Peters, the Court upheld his conviction since it flowed from a lawful stop-and-frisk search. The arresting officer observed Peters prowling furtively in a building hallway and had to chase him down before capture. Such suspicious conduct justified the ensuing stop-and-frisk search of Peter’s person that, in turn, revealed the incriminating burglar tools.

Case Information

  • Citation: 392 US 40 (1968)
  • Argued: Dec 11 – 12, 1967
  • Decided Jun 10, 1968