United States v. Chadwick Case Brief

Why is the case important?

One and a half hours after arresting the Respondents, Chadwick, Machado, and Leary (Respondents), federal narcotics agents opened a footlocker confiscated during the arrest. The agents had not obtained a warrant to open the footlocker.

Facts of the case


Is a search warrant required to open a locked footlocker that was seized during arrest, when there is probable cause to believe that the footlocker contains contraband?


Yes. Personal effects that have been confiscated by the police incident to an arrest cannot be searched without a warrant, unless exigent circumstances exist.


The Court held that by placing personal effects inside a double-locked footlocker, defendants manifested an expectation that the contents would have remained free from public examination. The Court held that the expectation of privacy was no less than one who locked the doors of his home to intruders and that defendants were due the protection of U.S. Const. amend. IV ‘s Warrant Clause. The Court held that there being no exigency it was unreasonable for the government to have conducted a search without the safeguards a judicial warrant provided. The Court held that the search was too remote to have been considered incident to arrest. The Court affirmed the order from the appellate court.

  • Case Brief: 1977
  • Petitioner: United States
  • Respondent: Chadwick
  • Decided by: Burger Court

Citation: 433 US 1 (1977)
Argued: Apr 26, 1977
Decided: Jun 21, 1977