Florida v Royer 460 U.S. 491, 103 S. Ct. 1319, 75 L. Ed.2d 229 (1983)
Royer was at the airport. The
police felt that he 'fit the description' of a typical drug courier. They
stopped him and asked for his identification. When the name on Royer's
driver's license didn't match the name on his ticket, the police took him
to a back room, got his luggage, and told Royer they suspected him of
They took him to the back
room without his consent, and did not return his ticket or his license.
Btw, today it is illegal to
travel under an assumed name, back then it was legal (although
The police asked for a consent
search of his luggage and Royer gave
them the key. Inside the luggage were some drugs. Royer was arrested.
The Trial Court convicted
Royer of drug possession. He appealed.
Royer argued that since he
did not give consent to be taken to the back room, the police violated
his 4th Amendment
rights by seizing him. Therefore all the evidence should
be thrown out.
The Florida Supreme Court
overturned the conviction. The prosecutor appealed.
The Florida Supreme Court
found that Royer had been involuntarily confined without probable
cause, and therefore his consent to
search the luggage was involuntary.
The Court noted that a
reasonable person would not have felt free to leave.
The US Supreme Court affirmed.
The US Supreme Court found
that there was no probable cause,
and therefore the police required consent to search the luggage.
The Court noted that it is
the prosecutor's burden to show that consent was freely and voluntarily
given, and that a showing of mere submission to a claim of lawful
authority is insufficient.
The Court compared this
situation to a Terry stop (see Terry
v. Ohio (392 U.S. 1 (1968)), and found that it is permissible
for the police to briefly stop and question someone on reasonable
suspicion, but the stop must be temporary and last no longer than
necessary. In this case, moving Royer to a back room and involuntarily
detaining him exceeded the police authority and therefore constituted an
See Dunaway v. New York (442 U.S. 200 (1979)).
The Court found that consent
cannot be given while a person is being illegally detained. Therefore
the consent search was invalid and
the evidence should be suppressed.
The Court noted that there
were other, less intrusive means that the police could have used, such as
drug sniffing dogs.
Courts have generally held
that the police must use reasonably available, least intrusive means
when conducting a search based on less than probable cause.
In a dissent it was argued
that there should be a totality of the circumstances test, where the
courts balance the amount of inconvenience to the subject with the amount
of reasonable suspicion that the
police had, as well as the societal interests in fighting crime.
Basically, there should be
no bright-line rule about what the police can and cannot do. Instead
there should be a sliding scale where the amount of intrusion is related
to the amount of suspicion.
This case helped the courts to
define the difference between an arrest and a stop.
A stop is allowed on reasonable suspicion and doesn't require probable cause, because it is supposed to be less intrusive
than an arrest.
In this case, the Court
found that the police action was more like an arrest than a stop, so reasonable
suspicion was not enough.