United States v. Place 462 U.S. 696, 103 S. Ct. 2637, 77 L. Ed.2d 110 (1983)
Place was in the Miami airport
acting suspiciously. The Miami police interviewed him but let him fly to
NYC (they alerted the NYC police though).
In NYC, the police there
stopped Place and asked to search his bags. He declined.
Place also lied and told the
police that he'd been searched in Miami.
The police took Place's bags
to a drug-sniffing dog who reacted. The police used this information to
obtain a warrant, searched Place's bags and found a pile of drugs.
It took 90 minutes to get
At Trial, Place made a motion
to suppress. It was denied.
Place argued that the drug
sniffing dog was a search, and was
an unreasonable and therefore unconstitutional violation of the 4th
Amendment, because at that point, the police did not have
either a warrant nor probable
Place pled guilty to drug
possession, then appealed.
The Appellate Court reversed,
and granted the motion to suppress. The prosecutor appealed.
The Appellate Court found
that the prolonged seizure of Place's luggage went beyond the limited
detention of a person based on reasonablesuspicion
allowable under Terry v. Ohio (392 U.S. 1 (1968)).
The US Supreme Court affirmed
the Appellate Court and granted the motion to suppress.
The US Supreme Court found that
a sniff by a police dog specially trained to detect the presence of
narcotics is not a search under the meaning of the 4th Amendment.
Place unsuccessfully argued
that the police seized his
property without probable cause, which should be unconstitutional, but the Court found that,
where the authorities possess specific and articulable facts warranting
reasonable belief that travelers luggage contains drugs, the governmental
interest in seizing the luggage briefly to pursue further investigation
The Court performed a
balancing test and balanced government interest in fighting crime to the
minor inconvenience of having your luggage briefly detained.
The Court compared this case
to Terry v. Ohio (392 U.S. 1
(1968)) and found that as long as the seizure was limited in scope and
there was something to arouse suspicions, the lesser degree of intrusion
meant that there was no need to show probable cause.
However, the Court found
that a seizure of this type must be quick, and the police held the
luggage for 90 minutes. The Court found that was too long, so the
seizure was unreasonable.
The Court noted that the
police knew Place was coming because they had been alerted by the Miami
police, so it was extra unreasonable that they couldn't get a
drug-sniffing dog in less than 90 minutes.
The basic point of this case
is that police actions must use reasonable available, least intrusive
See Florida v. Royer (460 U.S. 491 (1983)).
Another interesting thing to
note is that this case shows that you can use a Terry stop to search for evidence! This search is
allowable only with the use of drug sniffing dogs because that's
technically not an invasion of privacy.
Since the dog can only tell if there are drugs in the bag, it's not a
search because it doesn't
reveal anything about your possessions, except if there are illegal drugs