United States v. Sharpe

PETITIONER: United States
LOCATION: United States Courthouse

DOCKET NO.: 83-529
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 470 US 675 (1985)
ARGUED: Nov 27, 1984
DECIDED: Mar 20, 1985

Mr. Andrew L. Frey - on behalf of the petitioner
Mark J. Kadish - as amicus curiae in support of judgment below

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Sharpe

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 27, 1984 in United States v. Sharpe

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments first this morning in United States against Sharpe.

Mr. Frey, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Mr. Andrew L. Frey:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, this case is here on the government's petition for writ of certiorari to review a judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit suppressing a truckload of marijuana seized from the respondents on the ground that the discovery of the marijuana was the fruit of an unduly prolonged detention.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Was it really a whole truckload?

Mr. Andrew L. Frey:

Well, it was a... this was a pickup truck with a camper shell.

It was 43 bales of marijuana weighing, I think, about 2,600 pounds.

That is a fair quantity.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

That is quite a bit, yes.

Mr. Andrew L. Frey:

The case began when there was an operation to investigate suspected smuggling, marijuana smuggling in the... it was believed to be occurring either in the northernmost coastal county of South Carolina or the southernmost coastal county of North Carolina.

And the main actor on the law enforcement side was DEA Agent Cooke, who was patrolling the highways near the beaches where the marijuana activity was suspected to be occurring, and he saw the pickup truck with camper shell, which turned out to be driven by respondent Savage, proceeding in tandem with a Pontiac automobile, which turned out to be driven by respondent Sharpe.

Being suspicious of these vehicles, he followed them for some 20 miles as they proceeded south and observed certain things about them which to his mind confirmed his suspicion that they might be engaged in marijuana smuggling.

He determined at that point that he might like to make a stop, and he radioed for assistance, and Patrolman Thrasher of the South Carolina State Police joined this procession of vehicles as it proceeded toward Myrtle Beach, and shortly after Thrasher joined the procession, the pickup truck and the car made a turn onto a camp road, sped along that road well in excess of the speed limit.

The road made a loop and returned to the main highway.

They were followed all this time by Agent Cooke and Patrolman Thrasher.

They turned back on the main highway headed south.

At that point it was decided by Agent Cooke that they should be stopped for investigation.

He asked Thrasher to signal them to halt.

Thrasher did so.

When he did so, the Pontiac automobile driven by Sharpe pulled over to the side.

The truck driven by respondent Savage sped off in between the patrolman's car and the Pontiac down the road.

At this point, Patrolman Thrasher followed the truck down the road and Agent Cooke stopped with the Pontiac.

He asked Sharpe for identification.

Sharpe produced a license in the name of Raymond J. Pavlovich.

Cooke made some further efforts to communicate with Thrasher which were initially unsuccessful.

At the same time, he called for backup units from the Myrtle Beach Police to come and hold Sharpe and his passenger while he went on to see if he could locate the truck.

He went down the road, caught up half a mile down the road with Patrolman Thrasher and the truck, and in the meanwhile, to come back to that stopping, Thrasher had pursued the truck, stopped it half a mile down the road.

Savage had been ordered out of the vehicle or had been coming out of the vehicle.

It is not quite clear.

He was frisked.

He was then asked for license and registration.