BOSTICK v. STATE No. 70996.
554 So.2d 1153 (1989)
Terrance BOSTICK, Petitioner, v. STATE of Florida, Respondent.
Supreme Court of Florida.
Rehearing Denied January 29, 1990.
Joseph S. Paglino of the Law Office of Joseph S. Paglino, Miami, amicus curiae.
We have for review Bostick v. State,
Id. at 322. We rephrase the question as follows:
We answer the certified question in the affirmative and quash the opinion of the district court.
The facts in this case are succinctly stated by Judge Letts in his dissenting opinion
Id. (Letts, J., dissenting in part, footnote omitted).
The issue in this case arises out of the perpetual conflict between, on one hand, the right of an individual to be free from governmental interference and, on the other hand, the need of government to ensure the safety of its citizens. We start with the premise that every natural person has the inalienable right to live his or her life unimpeded by others. Each individual has the right to choose whether and with whom he or she will share personal information, conversation, or any other interaction personal to oneself. This right of personal autonomy or privacy, however, is forfeited when an individual acts to harm another. Thus, when the state has reason to believe that an individual has committed a crime, the state has the power to interfere with that individual's autonomy through a seizure or a search. However, this power must be exercised within certain constitutional constraints.
One such constraint is article I, section 12 of the Florida Constitution, and its counterpart, the fourth amendment of the United States Constitution. Both guarantee the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and both apply to all "seizures" of the person, including arrests and brief detentions. In the words of Terry v. Ohio,
Id. at 554, 100 S.Ct. at 1877 (footnote omitted). A majority of the Court has since embraced this formulation. Immigration and Naturalization Serv. v. Delgado,
The purpose of this admittedly imprecise test is clear: "to assess the coercive effect of police conduct, taken as a whole, rather than to focus on particular details of that conduct in isolation." Michigan v. Chesternut,
Against the backdrop of this imprecise definition of "seizure," the courts have established a continuum by which to gauge police activity alleged to constitute an improper seizure. From this continuum have come three broad lines of case law.
The first deals with the most severe seizures, most often described as "arrests." Full-fledged arrest, usually resulting in an indefinite detention of the person, is justified only when probable cause exists. Dunaway v. New York,
The second line of cases deals with the less severe intrusions upon personal rights caused by brief, investigatory stops. Such stops fall into several categories. In Terry, for instance, the United States Supreme Court recognized that police may briefly stop and question those reasonably suspected of committing or about to commit a crime and frisk those reasonably suspected of carrying a weapon. Terry, 392 U.S. at 27, 88 S.Ct. at 1883. The rationale of Terry was that the brief intrusion upon an individual under these circumstances was counterbalanced by the government's interest in ensuring the safety of its police officers and of the public in general.
The basic rationale of Terry has been extended to other contexts. The Court, for example, has used it to justify brief automobile stops when police had articulable suspicion that illegal aliens were present. Cortez, 449 U.S. at 421, 101 S.Ct. at 696. The same rationale underlies a number of decisions permitting brief stops in airport terminals of persons engaging in out-of-the-ordinary acts that usually indicate trafficking in illicit drugs.
The third line of cases involves those situations in which an individual actually consented to the police intrusion upon his or her personal rights. In these cases, the individual clearly understood that he or she could decline the police contact and continue on. If an individual chooses to speak with police and ultimately consents to a search, no "seizure" has occurred. Thus, the state has not engaged in coercion, and no fourth amendment violation exists. For instance, neither the state nor federal constitutions are offended when agents of the state approach an individual on the street or in another public place, ask questions without intimidation, and offer the voluntary answers to those questions into evidence in a criminal prosecution. Florida v. Rodriguez,
In the present case, the state contends that the initial contact by Officers Nutt and Rubino never rose to the level of a stop or detention that implicated Bostick's fourth amendment interests. What did occur, the state argues, was a consensual encounter meeting all the criteria for voluntariness prescribed under Schneckloth v. Bustamonte,
We disagree. We find, first, that Bostick in fact was "seized" by the officers and, second, that any consent he gave to search his luggage was not free from the taint of the illegal detention.
We have no doubt that the Sheriff's Department's standard procedure of "working the buses" is an investigative practice implicating the protections against unreasonable seizures of the person. U.S. Const. amend. IV; art. I, § 12, Fla. Const. There is no doubt that these protections extend to the traveling public, see Carroll v. United States,
There also is no doubt that the setting in which the challenged police conduct occurs may provide strong evidence of a "seizure." As noted in Chesternut, 108 S.Ct. at 1979, "what constitutes a restraint on liberty prompting a person to conclude that he is not free to `leave' will vary, not only with the particular police conduct at issue, but also with the setting in which the conduct occurs." The crucial question is whether, under all the circumstances, a reasonable person would have believed he was not free to leave. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. at 554, 100 S.Ct. at 1877.
Here, the circumstances indicate that the officers effectively "seized" Bostick. Officer Nutt testified that he and Officer Rubino, wearing raid jackets clearly identifying them as sheriff's officers, approached Bostick during the course of the bus's momentary layover in Fort Lauderdale. Bostick, who was resting on a bag in the rearmost seat, was asked to produce his identification and indicate his destination. During questioning, Officer Nutt stood in a position that partially blocked the only possible exit from the bus. At the time, Bostick testified that Officer Nutt had his hand in a black pouch that appeared to contain a gun. Because Bostick was en route to Atlanta, he could not leave the bus, which was soon to depart. He had only the confines of the bus itself in which to move about, had he felt the officers would let him do so.
Under such circumstances a reasonable traveler would not have felt that he was "free to leave" or that he was "free to disregard the questions and walk away." Mendenhall, 446 U.S. at 554, 100 S.Ct. at 1877. There was, in fact, no place to which a reasonable traveler might leave and no place to which he or she might walk away. The fact that the officers partially blocked the aisle and that one appeared to carry a gun only underscore this conclusion. Even the trial court in the proceeding below concluded that this situation was "very intimidating" for Bostick. For all intent and purpose, Bostick was detained by the activities of Officers Nutt and Rubino. Although, this detention did not rise to the level of an "arrest," it nevertheless constituted a lesser form of "seizure" of Bostick's person.
Other Florida cases involving the same Broward County policy support this conclusion. For example, under very similar facts in Alvarez v. State,
Id. at 289. Thus, the Fourth District concluded that the police activity in Alvarez was "the functional equivalent of detention for purposes of determining the voluntary nature of the subsequent consent." Id. We agree with this analysis.
Since we have found a detention of Bostick, we must determine its propriety. The broad principles of federal law, as well as the specific requirements of Florida law, require that the police in this instance at a
In this instance, the state concedes that it lacked any basis for suspecting illegal activity whatsoever. Thus, our inquiry is at an end. There were no articulable facts and no rational inferences to support the police activity involved here. The detention of Bostick was unlawful and unjustified.
Having decided that the initial confrontation was unlawful, we next consider whether Bostick's subsequent consent to search his luggage overcame the taint of the illegal police conduct. We find that it does not. As we stated in Norman v. State,
Id. at 646-47 (citations omitted, emphasis added). Accord Bailey v. State,
Accordingly, we find that under the circumstances presented here, government has exceeded its power to interfere with the privacy of an individual citizen who is not even suspected of any criminal wrongdoing. Indeed, the unlawful intrusion upon privacy that occurred here is eloquently described by Judge Andrews, as quoted in State v. Kerwick,
Id. at 348-49 (quoting Judge Andrews, emphasis in original).
We agree. The intrusion upon privacy rights caused by the Broward County policy is too great for a democracy to sustain. Without doubt the inherently transient nature of drug courier activity presents difficult law enforcement problems. Roving
For the foregoing reasons, we answer the certified question as rephrased in the affirmative. The opinion below is quashed, and we remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
EHRLICH, C.J., and SHAW and KOGAN, JJ., concur.
McDONALD, J., dissents with an opinion, in which OVERTON and GRIMES, JJ., concur.
GRIMES, J., dissents with an opinion, in which OVERTON and McDONALD, JJ., concur.
McDONALD, Justice, dissenting.
One cannot complain of a search if he voluntarily consents to it. The majority, among other things, concludes that the consent given here is the result of coercion per se under the circumstances. I reject that view and conclude that whether there was a free and voluntary consent is a question of fact to be decided by the trial judge.
I totally disagree that there had been a seizure of Bostick and the logic of holding him to be seized completely escapes me.
To many the practice of police boarding a bus seeking evidence of transportation of drugs is distasteful. I can accept that, but find nothing illegal about it so long as there are no overt acts of threat or intimidation in the procurement of a consent to search. The entire war on drugs is distasteful and society should accept some minimal inconvenience and minimal incursion on their rights of privacy in that fight.
I would affirm Bostick's conviction. I would approve the decision of State v. Avery,
OVERTON and GRIMES, JJ., concur.
GRIMES, Justice, dissenting.
I admit to a certain amount of discomfort in the prospect of the police routinely boarding stopped buses to inquire of the passengers whether they will consent to a search of their luggage. However, I know of no legal principle which would justify this Court in declaring the practice to be per se illegal.
The police are at liberty to approach an individual in a public place to ask him questions if the person is willing to listen. Florida v. Royer,
The position I take is similar to that expressed by six of the nine judges of the Fourth District Court of Appeal in the en banc decision of State v. Avery,
Whether there has been a voluntary consent is a question to be determined from the totality of the circumstances. Royer; Mendenhall; Schneckloth v. Bustamonte,
I respectfully dissent.
OVERTON and McDONALD, JJ., concur.
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