FLORIDA v. ROYER No. 80-2146.
460 U.S. 491 (1983)
FLORIDA v. ROYER
Supreme Court of United States.
Decided March 23, 1983.
Calvin L. Fox, Assistant Attorney General of Florida, argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs was Jim Smith, Attorney General.
Deputy Solicitor General Frey argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging reversal. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Lee, Assistant Attorney General Jensen, Joshua I. Schwartz, and Deborah Watson.
Theodore Klein argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief was Irwin J. Block. *
We are required in this case to determine whether the Court of Appeal of Florida, Third District, properly applied the precepts of the Fourth Amendment in holding that respondent Royer was being illegally detained at the time of his purported consent to a search of his luggage.
On January 3, 1978, Royer was observed at Miami International Airport by two plainclothes detectives of the Dade County, Fla., Public Safety Department assigned to the county's Organized Crime Bureau, Narcotics Investigation Section.
Upon request, but without oral consent, Royer produced for the detectives his airline ticket and his driver's license. The airline ticket, like the baggage identification tags, bore the name "Holt," while the driver's license carried respondent's correct name, "Royer." When the detectives asked about the discrepancy, Royer explained that a friend had made the reservation in the name of "Holt." Royer became noticeably more nervous during this conversation, whereupon the detectives informed Royer that they were in fact narcotics investigators and that they had reason to suspect him of transporting narcotics.
The detectives did not return his airline ticket and identification but asked Royer to accompany them to a room, approximately 40 feet away, adjacent to the concourse. Royer said nothing in response but went with the officers as he had been asked to do. The room was later described by Detective Johnson as a "large storage closet," located in the stewardesses' lounge and containing a small desk and two chairs. Without Royer's consent or agreement, Detective Johnson, using Royer's baggage check stubs, retrieved the "Holt" luggage from the airline and brought it to the room where respondent and Detective Magdalena were waiting. Royer was asked if he would consent to a search of the suitcases. Without orally responding to this request, Royer produced a key and unlocked one of the suitcases, which one detective then opened without seeking further assent from Royer. Marihuana was found in that suitcase. According to Detective Johnson, Royer stated that he did not know the combination to the lock on the second suitcase. When asked if he objected to the detective opening the second suitcase, Royer said "[n]o, go ahead," and did not object when the detective
Prior to his trial for felony possession of marihuana,
The District Court of Appeal, sitting en banc, reversed Royer's conviction.
At the suppression hearing Royer testified that he was under the impression that he was not free to leave the officers' presence. The Florida District Court of Appeal found that this apprehension "was much more than a well-justified subjective belief," for the State had conceded at oral argument before that court that "the officers would not have permitted Royer to leave the room even if he had erroneously thought he could." Ibid. The nomenclature used to describe Royer's confinement, the court found, was unimportant because under Dunaway v. New York, 442 U.S. 200 (1979), "a police confinement which . . . goes beyond the limited restraint of a Terry investigatory stop may be constitutionally justified only by probable cause." 389 So. 2d, at 1019 (footnote omitted). Detective Johnson, who conducted the search, had specifically stated at the suppression hearing that he did not have probable cause to arrest Royer until the suitcases were opened and their contents revealed.
Some preliminary observations are in order. First, it is unquestioned that without a warrant to search Royer's luggage and in the absence of probable cause and exigent circumstances, the validity of the search depended on Royer's purported consent. Neither is it disputed that where the validity of a search rests on consent, the State has the burden of proving that the necessary consent was obtained and that it was freely and voluntarily given, a burden that is not satisfied by showing a mere submission to a claim of lawful authority. Lo-Ji Sales, Inc. v. New York, 442 U.S. 319, 329 (1979); Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 233-234 (1973); Bumper v. North Carolina, 391 U.S. 543, 548-549 (1968); Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10, 13 (1948); Amos v. United States, 255 U.S. 313, 317 (1921).
Second, law enforcement officers do not violate the Fourth Amendment by merely approaching an individual on the street or in another public place, by asking him if he is willing to answer some questions, by putting questions to him if the person is willing to listen, or by offering in evidence in a criminal prosecution his voluntary answers to such questions. See Dunaway v. New York, supra, at 210, n. 12; Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S., at 31, 32-33 (Harlan, J., concurring); id., at 34 (WHITE, J., concurring). Nor would the fact that the officer identifies himself as a police officer, without more, convert the encounter into a seizure requiring some level of objective justification. United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544, 555 (1980) (opinion of Stewart, J.). The person
Third, it is also clear that not all seizures of the person must be justified by probable cause to arrest for a crime. Prior to Terry v. Ohio, supra, any restraint on the person amounting to a seizure for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment was invalid unless justified by probable cause. Dunaway v. New York, supra, at 207-209. Terry created a limited exception to this general rule: certain seizures are justifiable under the Fourth Amendment if there is articulable suspicion that a person has committed or is about to commit a crime. In that case, a stop and a frisk for weapons were found unexceptionable. Adams v. Williams, 407 U.S. 143 (1972), applied the same approach in the context of an informant's report that an unnamed individual in a nearby vehicle was carrying narcotics and a gun. Although not expressly authorized in Terry, United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. 873, 881-882 (1975), was unequivocal in saying that reasonable suspicion of criminal activity warrants a temporary seizure for the purpose of questioning limited to the purpose of the stop. In Brignoni-Ponce, that purpose was to verify or dispel the suspicion that the immigration laws were being violated, a governmental interest that was sufficient to warrant temporary detention for limited questioning. Royer does not suggest, nor do we, that a similar rationale would not warrant temporary detention for questioning on less than probable cause where the public interest
Michigan v. Summers, 452 U.S. 692 (1981), involved another circumstance in which a temporary detention on less than probable cause satisfied the ultimate test of reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment. There the occupant of a house was detained while a search warrant for the house was being executed. We held that the warrant made the occupant sufficiently suspect to justify his temporary seizure. The "limited intrusio[n] on the personal security" of the person detained was justified "by such substantial law enforcement interests" that the seizure could be made on articulable suspicion not amounting to probable cause. Id., at 699.
Fourth, Terry and its progeny nevertheless created only limited exceptions to the general rule that seizures of the person require probable cause to arrest. Detentions may be "investigative" yet violative of the Fourth Amendment absent probable cause. In the name of investigating a person who is no more than suspected of criminal activity, the police may not carry out a full search of the person or of his automobile or other effects. Nor may the police seek to verify their suspicions by means that approach the conditions of arrest. Dunaway v. New York, supra, made this clear. There, the suspect was taken to the police station from his home and, without being formally arrested, interrogated for an hour. The resulting incriminating statements were held inadmissible: reasonable suspicion of crime is insufficient to justify custodial interrogation even though the interrogation is investigative. Id., at 211-212. Brown v. Illinois, 422 U.S. 590 (1975), and Davis v. Mississippi, 394 U.S. 721 (1969), are to the same effect.
The Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures has always been interpreted to prevent a search that is not limited to the particularly described "place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized," U. S. Const., Amdt. 4, even if the search is made pursuant to
The predicate permitting seizures on suspicion short of probable cause is that law enforcement interests warrant a limited intrusion on the personal security of the suspect. The scope of the intrusion permitted will vary to some extent with the particular facts and circumstances of each case. This much, however, is clear: an investigative detention must be temporary and last no longer than is necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop. Similarly, the investigative methods employed should be the least intrusive means reasonably available to verify or dispel the officer's suspicion in a short period of time. See, e. g., United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, supra, at 881-882; Adams v. Williams, supra, at 146. It is the State's burden to demonstrate that the seizure it seeks to justify on the basis of a reasonable suspicion was sufficiently limited in scope and duration to satisfy the conditions of an investigative seizure.
Sixth, if the events in this case amounted to no more than a permissible police encounter in a public place or a justifiable Terry-type detention, Royer's consent, if voluntary, would have been effective to legalize the search of his two suitcases. Cf. United States v. Watson, 423 U.S. 411, 424-425 (1976). The Florida District Court of Appeal in the case before us, however, concluded not only that Royer had been seized when he gave his consent to search his luggage but also that the bounds of an investigative stop had been exceeded. In its view the "confinement" in this case went beyond the limited restraint of a Terry investigative stop, and Royer's consent was thus tainted by the illegality, a conclusion that required reversal in the absence of probable cause to arrest. The question before us is whether the record warrants that conclusion. We think that it does.
The State proffers three reasons for holding that when Royer consented to the search of his luggage, he was not being illegally detained. First, it is submitted that the entire encounter was consensual and hence Royer was not being held against his will at all. We find this submission untenable. Asking for and examining Royer's ticket and his driver's license were no doubt permissible in themselves, but when the officers identified themselves as narcotics agents, told Royer that he was suspected of transporting narcotics, and asked him to accompany them to the police room, while retaining his ticket and driver's license and without indicating in any way that he was free to depart, Royer was effectively seized for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment.
Second, the State submits that if Royer was seized, there existed reasonable, articulable suspicion to justify a temporary detention and that the limits of a Terry-type stop were never exceeded. We agree with the State that when the officers discovered that Royer was traveling under an assumed name, this fact, and the facts already known to the officers — paying cash for a one-way ticket, the mode of checking the two bags, and Royer's appearance and conduct in general — were adequate grounds for suspecting Royer of carrying drugs and for temporarily detaining him and his luggage while they attempted to verify or dispel their suspicions in a manner that did not exceed the limits of an investigative detention. We also agree that had Royer voluntarily consented to the search of his luggage while he was justifiably being detained on reasonable suspicion, the products of the search would be admissible against him. We have concluded, however, that at the time Royer produced the key to his suitcase, the detention to which he was then subjected was a more serious intrusion on his personal liberty than is allowable on mere suspicion of criminal activity.
By the time Royer was informed that the officers wished to examine his luggage, he had identified himself when approached by the officers and had attempted to explain the discrepancy between the name shown on his identification and the name under which he had purchased his ticket and identified his luggage. The officers were not satisfied, for they informed him they were narcotics agents and had reason to believe that he was carrying illegal drugs. They requested him to accompany them to the police room. Royer went with them. He found himself in a small room — a large closet — equipped with a desk and two chairs. He was alone with two police officers who again told him that they thought
Third, the State has not touched on the question whether it would have been feasible to investigate the contents of Royer's bags in a more expeditious way. The courts are not strangers to the use of trained dogs to detect the presence of controlled substances in luggage.
We do not suggest that there is a litmus-paper test for distinguishing a consensual encounter from a seizure or for determining when a seizure exceeds the bounds of an investigative stop. Even in the discrete category of airport encounters, there will be endless variations in the facts and circumstances, so much variation that it is unlikely that the courts can reduce to a sentence or a paragraph a rule that will
The State's third and final argument is that Royer was not being illegally held when he gave his consent because there was probable cause to arrest him at that time. Detective Johnson testified at the suppression hearing and the Florida District Court of Appeal held that there was no probable cause to arrest until Royer's bags were opened, but the fact that the officers did not believe there was probable cause and proceeded on a consensual or Terry-stop rationale would not foreclose the State from justifying Royer's custody by proving probable cause and hence removing any barrier to relying on Royer's consent to search. Peters v. New York, decided with Sibron v. New York, 392 U.S. 40, 66-67 (1968). We agree with the Florida District Court of Appeal, however, that probable cause to arrest Royer did not exist at the time he consented to the search of his luggage. The facts are that a nervous young man with two American Tourister bags paid cash for an airline ticket to a "target city." These facts led to inquiry, which in turn revealed that the ticket had been bought under an assumed name. The proffered explanation did not satisfy the officers. We cannot agree with the State, if this is its position, that every nervous young man paying cash for a ticket to New York City under an assumed name and carrying two heavy American Tourister bags may be arrested and held to answer for a serious felony charge.
Because we affirm the Florida District Court of Appeal's conclusion that Royer was being illegally detained when he consented to the search of his luggage, we agree that the consent
I join the plurality opinion. This is an airport "stop for questioning" case similar in its general setting to that before us in United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544 (1980).
This case, however, differs strikingly from Mendenhall in the circumstances following the lawful initial questioning and the request that the suspect accompany the officers to a more private place. Royer then found himself in a small, window-less room — described as a "large closet" — alone with two officers who, without his consent, already had obtained possession of his checked luggage. In addition, they had retained his driver's license and airline ticket. Neither the evidence
JUSTICE BRENNAN, concurring in the result.
In this case the Florida District Court of Appeal's decision rested on its holding that at some point after the initial stop the officers' seizure of Royer matured into an arrest unsupported by probable cause. 389 So.2d 1007, 1019 (1980) (en banc). Royer's consent to the search of his suitcases, therefore, was tainted by the illegal arrest. Id., at 1019-1020. The District Court of Appeal's conclusion is amply supported by the record and by our decision in Dunaway v. New York, 442 U.S. 200 (1979). I therefore concur that the District Court of Appeal's judgment should be affirmed. But the plurality reaches certain issues that it clearly need not reach to support an affirmance.
To the extent that the plurality endorses the legality of the officers' initial stop of Royer, see post, at 523, n. 3 (REHNQUIST, J., dissenting), it was wholly unnecessary to reach that question. For even assuming the legality of the initial stop, the plurality correctly holds, and I agree, that the officers' subsequent actions clearly exceeded the permissible bounds of a Terry "investigative" stop. Ante, at 501, 507. "[A]ny `exception' that could cover a seizure as intrusive as that in this case would threaten to swallow the general rule that Fourth Amendment seizures are `reasonable' only if based on probable cause." Dunaway v. New York, supra, at 213. Thus, most of the plurality's discussion of the permissible scope of Terry investigative stops is also unnecessary to the decision.
I emphasize that Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), was a very limited decision that expressly declined to address the "constitutional propriety of an investigative `seizure' upon less than probable cause for purposes of `detention' and/or
The scope of a Terry-type "investigative" stop and any attendant search must be extremely limited or the Terry exception would "swallow the general rule that Fourth Amendment seizures [and searches] are `reasonable' only if based on probable cause." Dunaway v. New York, supra, at 213. In my view, any suggestion that the Terry reasonable-suspicion
In any event, I dissent from the plurality's view that the initial stop of Royer was legal. For plainly Royer was "seized" for purposes of the Fourth Amendment when the officers asked him to produce his driver's license and airline ticket. Terry stated that "whenever a police officer accosts an individual and restrains his freedom to walk away, he has `seized' that person." 392 U. S., at 16. Although I agree that "not all personal intercourse between policemen and citizens involves `seizures' of persons," id., at 19, n. 16, and that policemen may approach citizens on the street and ask them questions without "seizing" them for purposes of the Fourth Amendment, once an officer has identified himself and asked a traveler for identification and his airline ticket, the traveler has been "seized" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. By identifying themselves and asking for Royer's airline ticket and driver's license the officers, as a practical matter, engaged in a "show of authority" and "restrained
Before Terry, only "seizures" of persons based on probable cause were held to satisfy the Fourth Amendment. Dunaway v. New York, 442 U. S., at 208-209. As we stated in United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, supra, however, Terry and Adams "establish that in appropriate circumstances the Fourth Amendment allows a properly limited `search' or `seizure' on facts that do not constitute probable cause to arrest or to search for contraband or evidence of crime." 422 U. S., at 881. But to justify such a seizure an officer must have a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity based on "specific and articulable facts . . . [and] rational inferences from those facts . . . ." Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S., at 21. See also Brown v. Texas, 443 U.S. 47, 51 (1979). In this case, the officers decided to approach Royer because he was carrying American Tourister luggage, which appeared to be heavy; he was young; he was casually dressed; he appeared to be pale and nervous and was looking around at other people; he paid for his airline ticket in cash with a large number of bills; and he did not completely fill out the identification tags for his luggage, which was checked to New York. See ante, at 493, n. 2. These facts clearly are not sufficient to provide the reasonable suspicion of criminal activity necessary to justify the officers' subsequent seizure of Royer. Indeed, considered individually or collectively, they are perfectly consistent with innocent behavior and cannot possibly give rise to any inference supporting a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The officers' seizure of Royer, therefore, was illegal.
Although I recognize that the traffic in illicit drugs is a matter of pressing national concern, that cannot excuse this Court from exercising its unflagging duty to strike down official activity that exceeds the confines of the Constitution.
JUSTICE BLACKMUN, dissenting.
JUSTICE POWELL, concurring in United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544 (1980), observed:
In my view, the police conduct in this case was minimally intrusive. Given the strength of society's interest in overcoming the extraordinary obstacles to the detection of drug traffickers, such conduct should not be subjected to a requirement of probable cause. Because the Court holds otherwise, I dissent.
The Florida District Court of Appeal, Third District, held that respondent Royer had been arrested without probable cause before he consented to the search of his luggage, and that his consent was therefore tainted by this illegal detention.
" `[T]he key principle of the Fourth Amendment is reasonableness — the balancing of competing interests.' " Michigan v. Summers, 452 U.S. 692, 700, n. 12 (1981), quoting Dunaway v. New York, 442 U. S., at 219 (WHITE, J., concurring). Previous cases suggest a two-step analysis to distinguish seizures requiring probable cause from those requiring reasonable suspicion. On the one hand, any formal arrest, and any seizure "having the essential attributes of a formal arrest, is unreasonable unless it is supported by probable cause." Michigan v. Summers, 452 U. S., at 700. On the other hand, a more limited intrusion, if supported by a special law enforcement need for greater flexibility, may be justifiable under the lesser "reasonable suspicion" standard. These lesser seizures are "not confined to the momentary, on-the-street detention accompanied by a frisk for weapons." Ibid. In the case of a seizure less intrusive than a formal arrest, determining whether the less demanding reasonable-suspicion
At the suppression hearing in this case, Royer agreed that he was not formally arrested until after his suitcases were opened. App. 84A, 85A. In my view, it cannot fairly be said that, prior to the formal arrest, the functional equivalent of an arrest had taken place. The encounter had far more in common with automobile stops justifiable on reasonable suspicion, see United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U. S., at 880-882, than with the detention deemed the functional equivalent of a formal arrest in Dunaway v. New York, supra. In Dunaway, the suspect was taken from his neighbor's home and involuntarily transported to the police station in a squad car. At the precinct house, he was placed in an interrogation room and subjected to extended custodial interrogation. 442 U. S., at 203, 206-207, 212. Here, Royer was not taken from a private residence, where reasonable expectations of privacy perhaps are at their greatest. Instead, he was approached in a major international airport where, due in part to extensive antihijacking surveillance and equipment, reasonable privacy expectations are of significantly lesser magnitude, certainly no greater than the reasonable privacy expectations of travelers in automobiles. See United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U. S., at 561. As in the automobile stop cases, and indeed as in every case in which the Court has upheld seizures upon reasonable suspicion, Royer was questioned where he was found, and all
What followed was within the scope of the lesser intrusions approved on less than probable cause in our prior cases, and was far removed from the circumstances of Dunaway. In the context of automobile stops, the Court has held that an officer "may question the driver and passengers about their citizenship and immigration status, and he may ask them to explain suspicious circumstances, but any further detention or search must be based on consent or probable cause." United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U. S., at 881-882, quoted with approval in Dunaway, 442 U. S., at 212. Here, Royer was not subjected to custodial interrogation, for which probable cause is required. Dunaway, 442 U. S., at 216. Instead, the officers first sought Royer's consent to move the detention 40 feet to the police room, and then sought his consent to search his luggage. The question is whether, as in Dunaway, the move was involuntary, in which case probable cause might have been required, or whether, as in Mendenhall, 446 U. S., at 557-558, Royer consented voluntarily to this change of locale. Like JUSTICE REHNQUIST, post, at 530-531, I do not understand the plurality to dispute that Royer consented to go to the police room. Because the detention up to this point was not unlawful, the voluntariness of Royer's consent is to be judged on the totality of the circumstances. Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 227 (1973). As in Mendenhall, 446 U. S., at 557, quoting Sibron v. New York, 392 U.S. 40, 63 (1968), Royer went " `voluntarily in a spirit of apparent cooperation.' "
The officers in this case began their encounter with Royer with reasonable suspicion. They continued their questioning and requested further cooperation only as more facts, heightening their suspicion, came to their attention. Certainly, as any such detention continues or escalates, a greater degree of reasonable suspicion is necessary to sustain it, and at some point probable cause will be required. But here, the intrusion was short-lived and minimal. Only 15 minutes transpired from the initial approach to the opening of the suitcases. The officers were polite, and sought and immediately obtained Royer's consent at each significant step of the process.
The special need for flexibility in uncovering illicit drug couriers is hardly debatable. Surely the problem is as serious, and as intractable, as the problem of illegal immigration discussed in United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U. S., at 878-879, and in United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U. S., at 552. In light of the extraordinary and well-documented difficulty of identifying drug couriers, the minimal intrusion in this case, based on particularized suspicion, was eminently reasonable.
JUSTICE REHNQUIST, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE and JUSTICE O'CONNOR join, dissenting.
The plurality's meandering opinion contains in it a little something for everyone, and although it affirms the reversal of a judgment of conviction, it can scarcely be said to bespeak
The opinion nonetheless, in my view, betrays a mind-set more useful to those who officiate at shuffleboard games, primarily concerned with which particular square the disc has landed on, than to those who are seeking to administer a system of justice whose twin purposes are the conviction of the guilty and the vindication of the innocent. The plurality loses sight of the very language of the Amendment which it purports to interpret:
Analyzed simply in terms of its "reasonableness" as that term is used in the Fourth Amendment, the conduct of the investigating officers toward Royer would pass muster with virtually all thoughtful, civilized persons not overly steeped in the mysteries of this Court's Fourth Amendment jurisprudence. Analyzed even in terms of the most meticulous regard for our often conflicting cases, it seems to me to pass muster equally well.
The facts of this case, which are doubtless typical of those facing narcotics officers in major airports throughout the country, may be usefully stated in a somewhat different manner than that followed in the opinion of the plurality. Officers Magdalena and Johnson, members of the "Smuggling Detail" of the Dade County Public Safety Department created in response to a growing drug problem at the Miami Airport,
The detectives first saw Royer walking through the airport concourse. He was a young man, casually dressed, carrying two heavily laden suitcases. The officers described him as nervous in appearance, and looking around in a manner which suggested that he was trying to detect and avoid police officers. Before they approached him, the officers followed Royer to a ticket counter. He there requested a ticket for New York City, and in paying for it produced a large roll of cash in small denomination bills from which he peeled off the necessary amount. He then affixed two baggage tags to his luggage and checked it. Rather than filling out his full name, address, and phone number in the spaces provided on the tags, Royer merely wrote the words "Holt" and "La Guardia" on each tag.
At this point, the officers approached Royer, identified themselves, and asked if he had a moment to talk. He answered affirmatively, and the detectives then asked to see his airline ticket and some identification.
By this time Royer had become all the more obviously nervous. The detectives told Royer that they suspected he was transporting narcotics, and asked if he would accompany
Once inside, the detectives asked Royer if he would consent to a search of the luggage so that they could dispel or confirm their suspicion that he was smuggling narcotics. The plurality's opinion describes what then happened:
The plurality concedes that after their initial conversation with Royer, the officers had "grounds for suspecting Royer of carrying drugs and for temporarily detaining him and his luggage while they attempted to verify or dispel their suspicions. . . ." Ante, at 502. See also Michigan v. Summers, 452 U.S. 692, 697-700 (1981); Adams v. Williams, 407 U.S. 143, 146 (1972); Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 20-21 (1968). I agree that their information reached at least this level.
The Florida court felt that even these facts did not amount to articulable suspicion, reasoning that this behavior was "at least equally, and usually far more frequently, consistent with complete innocence."
Obviously, this quoted language is intended to convey stern disapproval of the described conduct of the officers. To my mind, it merits no such disapproval and was eminently reasonable. Would it have been preferable for the officers to have detained Royer for further questioning, as they concededly had a right to do, without paying any attention to the fact that his luggage had already been checked on the flight to New York, and might be put aboard the flight even though Royer himself was not on the plane? Would it have been more "reasonable" to interrogate Royer about the contents of his suitcases, and to seek his permission to open the suitcases
The plurality's answers to these questions, to the extent that it attempts any, are scarcely satisfying. It commences with the observation that "the officers" conduct was more intrusive than necessary to effectuate an investigative detention otherwise authorized by the Terry line of cases." Ante, at 504. Earlier in its opinion, the plurality set the stage for this standard when the familiar "least intrusive means" principle of First Amendment law is suddenly carried over into Fourth Amendment law by the citation of two cases, United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. 873, 881-882 (1975), and Adams v. Williams, 407 U. S., at 146, see ante, at 500, neither one of which lends any support to the principle as a part of Fourth Amendment law. The plurality goes on to say that had the officers returned Royer's ticket and driver's license, the encounter clearly would have been consensual. The plurality also states that while there were good reasons to justify moving Royer from one location to another, the officers' motives in seeking to examine his luggage render these reasons unavailing — a conclusion the reason for which wholly escapes me. Finally, the plurality suggests that the officers might have examined Royer's bags in a more expeditious way, such as the use of trained dogs.
All of this to my mind adds up to little more than saying that if my aunt were a man, she would be my uncle. The officers might have taken different steps than they did to investigate Royer, but the same may be said of virtually every investigative encounter that has more than one step to it. The question we must decide is what was unreasonable about the steps which these officers took with respect to this suspect
But since even the plurality concedes that there was articulable suspicion warranting an investigatory detention, the fact that the inquiry had become an "investigatory procedure in a police interrogation room" would seem to have little bearing on the proper disposition of a claim that the officers violated the Fourth Amendment. The plurality goes on to say:
Does the plurality intimate that if the Florida District Court of Appeal had reached the opposite conclusion with respect to the holdings of Terry and the cases which follow it, it would affirm that holding?
Since the plurality concedes the existence of "articulable suspicion" at least after the initial conversation with Royer, the only remaining question is whether the detention of Royer during that period of time was permissible under the rule enunciated in Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968). Although Terry itself involved only a protective patdown for weapons, subsequent cases have expanded the permissible scope of such a "seizure." In Adams v. Williams, supra, we upheld both a search and seizure of a pistol being carried by a suspect seated in a parked automobile. In United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U.S. 543 (1976), we allowed Government officials to stop, and divert for visual inspection and questioning, automobiles which were suspected of harboring illegal aliens. These stops, including waiting time, could clearly have approximated in length the time which Royer was detained, and yet Martinez-Fuerte allowed them to be made "in the absense of any individualized suspicion at reasonably located checkpoints." Id., at 562 (emphasis supplied). Unless we are to say that commercial drug trafficking is somehow quantitatively less weighty on the Fourth Amendment scale than trafficking in illegal aliens, I think the articulable suspicion which concededly focused upon Royer justified the length and nature of his detention.
The reasonableness of the officers' activity in this case did not depend on Royer's consent to the investigation. Nevertheless, the presence of consent further justifies the action taken. The plurality does not seem to dispute that Royer
The plurality concludes that somewhere between the beginning of the 40-foot journey and the resumption of conversation in the room the investigation became so intrusive that Royer's consent "evaporated" leaving him "[a]s a practical matter . . . under arrest." Ante, at 503. But if Royer was legally approached in the first instance and consented to accompany the detectives to the room, it does not follow that his consent went up in smoke and he was "arrested" upon entering the room. As we made clear in Mendenhall, logical analysis would focus on whether the environment in the room rendered the subsequent consent to a search of the luggage involuntary.
For any of these several reasons, I would reverse the judgment of the Florida District Court of Appeal.
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