Florida Supreme Court

The issue on appeal to the Florida Supreme Court was: “Does an encounter on a bus initiated by police who are clearly identifiable but lacking in reasonable suspicion, constitute a seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment if the passenger is told that he does not have to give consent to search? ” (Cretacci, 56) The Florida Supreme Court ruled that in the circumstances of the police approach to Bostick, any passenger would have reasonably not have felt that he was free to leave the bus to terminate the police questioning and the police practice of “working the buses” contravened the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution.

(Florida v Bostick, 501 US 429 [1991]) Before the US Supreme Court the State conceded that the police officers in question acted without reasonable grounds to suspect. However the State argued that the Fourth Amendment does not bar police questioning individuals at random, provided that individual was aware that he did not have to cooperate with the police. (Florida v Bostick, 501 US 429 [1991]) Bostick argued that his case was entirely different from the scenario in which a police officer might approach an individual in a public place.

Having been approached in the confines of a bus on a schedule he felt that he had in the circumstances been zapped of his mobility and free choice. Bostick relied on previous US Supreme Court rulings that found that an unlawful seizure occurs when the individual feels that he is not at liberty to leave or terminate the police questioning. (Florida v Bostick, 501 US 429 [1991]) The US Supreme Court rejected Bostick’s argument ruling that his feeling of confined operated outside of police presence.

In other words, even had the police not been present, Bostick would not have felt free to leave because the bus was on a schedule and would likely leave without him. The appropriate test therefore was whether or not Bostick knew that he was free to decline the officers’ request to search the contents of his baggage. The State argued that the since the police had made this clear to Bostick the search and seizure was not inconsistent with the ambit of the Fourth Amendment. The US Supreme Court agreed with the State.

(Florida v Bostick, 501 US 429 [1991]) The US Supreme Court went on to rule that the it is firmly established law that mere police questioning and requests to search personal possessions does not amount to a search and seizure for the purposes contained in the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution. The Fourth Amendment would only arise if the police leaves the target of the questioning with the impression that he was required to comply with the request for search and the questioning in general.

As long as the individual was permitted to choose to carry on with his own affairs there was no search and seizure. (Florida v Bostick, 501 US 429 [1991]) Justice Marshall’s dissenting opinion which was adapted by Justices Blackmum and Stevens were not as convinced as the majority decision that the search and seizure had been lawful. Justice Marshall pointed out and reasonably so that there were two important elements to Florida v Bostick that should have rendered the search and seizure unreasonable. The first element was the suspicionless nature of the “bus stop.

” (Florida v Bostick, 501 US 429 [1991]) The second element was the intimidating manner in which the police entered the bus in that they wore raid jackets, carried a weapons’ pouch and wielded their badges. These factors together with the fact that the bus was confined and cramped would have made any reasonable passenger feel that he was not free to refuse the police request to search his baggage. Taking all of these factors into account there was a search and seizure and it had been conducted contrary to the spirit and intent of the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution.

(Florida v Bostick, 501 US 429 [1991]) Although the dissenting judgment has significant merit, it does not carry over into law. The majority decision makes law and accordingly the police are only required to inform the individual of his right to refuse to cooperate with the request for information or a search. It seems entirely unjust to ignore other factors such as the confined circumstances in which Bostick was confronted by the police.

It is entirely unreasonable to assume that the average citizen will automatically know that he will not face prosecution if he refuses to cooperate with police officers when the approach taken is as intimidating as in this case. Bibliography Cretacci, Michael. (2008) Supreme Court Case Briefs in Criminal Procedure. Rowan and Littlefield. Florida v Bostick, 501 US 429 [1991] Schmalleger, Frank and Armstrong, Gordon. (1997) Crime and the Justice System in America: An Encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group. US Constitution