United States v. Johns

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United States v. Johns
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued November 28, 1984
Decided January 21, 1985
Full case nameUnited States v. Johns
Citations 469 U.S. 478 ( more )
105 S. Ct. 881; 83 L. Ed. 2d 890; 53 U.S.L.W. 4126
Prior history Trial court reversed and remanded, 707 F.2d 1093 (9th Cir. 1983)
Holding
The odor of marijuana gave the officers probable cause, and the three day delay in conducting the search was not unreasonable.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Warren E. Burger
Associate Justices
William J. Brennan Jr.  · Byron White
Thurgood Marshall  · Harry Blackmun
Lewis F. Powell Jr.  · William Rehnquist
John P. Stevens  · Sandra Day O'Connor
Case opinions
Majority O'Connor, joined by Burger, White, Blackmun, Powell, Rehnquist, Stevens
Dissent Brennan, joined by Marshall
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. IV

United States v. Johns, 469 U.S. 478 (1985), was a United States Supreme Court criminal law case holding that a three-day delay in searching a motor vehicle under government control did not violate the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Search and seizure police power

Search and Seizure is a procedure used in many civil law and common law legal systems by which police or other authorities and their agents, who, suspecting that a crime has been committed, commence a search of a person's property and confiscate any relevant evidence found in connection to the crime.

Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. It prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. In addition, it sets requirements for issuing warrants: warrants must be issued by a judge or magistrate, justified by probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and must particularly describe the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

United States Constitution Supreme law of the United States of America

The United States Constitution is the supreme law of the United States. The Constitution, originally comprising seven articles, delineates the national frame of government. Its first three articles embody the doctrine of the separation of powers, whereby the federal government is divided into three branches: the legislative, consisting of the bicameral Congress ; the executive, consisting of the President ; and the judicial, consisting of the Supreme Court and other federal courts. Articles Four, Five and Six embody concepts of federalism, describing the rights and responsibilities of state governments, the states in relationship to the federal government, and the shared process of constitutional amendment. Article Seven establishes the procedure subsequently used by the thirteen States to ratify it. It is regarded as the oldest written and codified national constitution in force.

Contents

Background

Johns involved a United States Customs drug smuggling investigation in Arizona where Customs officers followed two pickup trucks to a remote desert airstrip, and set up surveillance. Two small airplanes landed and departed. The officers walked up on the trucks and could smell marijuana. In the back of the trucks were what obviously were bales of marijuana wrapped in dark green plastic bags and sealed with tape. Several men were arrested at the scene. Johns and another were the pilots, and they were arrested when they landed. The trucks were not searched at the scene. Instead, they were removed to a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) warehouse in Tucson. Three days later, the officers took samples of the marijuana.

Illegal drug trade global black market

The illegal drug trade or drug trafficking is a global black market dedicated to the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of drugs that are subject to drug prohibition laws. Most jurisdictions prohibit trade, except under license, of many types of drugs through the use of drug prohibition laws.

Arizona state of the United States of America

Arizona is a state in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the Western and the Mountain states. It is the sixth largest and the 14th most populous of the 50 states. Its capital and largest city is Phoenix. Arizona shares the Four Corners region with Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico; its other neighboring states are Nevada and California to the west and the Mexican states of Sonora and Baja California to the south and southwest.

Drug Enforcement Administration United States federal law enforcement agency

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is a United States federal law enforcement agency under the United States Department of Justice, tasked with combating drug smuggling and distribution within the United States. The DEA is the lead agency for domestic enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act, sharing concurrent jurisdiction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It has sole responsibility for coordinating and pursuing US drug investigations both domestic and abroad.

The district court ordered suppression of the evidence because of the unreasonableness of the delay, and the government appealed. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed, [1] holding that the search of the vehicles three days later was unreasonable under United States v. Ross (1982). [2]

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the districts of Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is a U.S. Federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the district courts in the following districts:

United States v. Ross, 456 U.S. 798 (1982), was a search and seizure case argued before the Supreme Court of the United States. The high court was asked to decide if a legal warrantless search of an automobile allows closed containers found in the vehicle to be searched as well. The appeals court had previously ruled that opening and searching the closed portable containers without a warrant was a violation of the Fourth Amendment, even though the warrantless vehicle search was permissible due to existing precedent.

Opinion of the Court

The Supreme Court reversed in an opinion by Justice O'Connor. In resisting the government's petition for certiorari, the defendants raised a separate ground to sustain the judgment below. They argued that the officers lacked probable cause for the arrest before they saw the distinctive packaging of the marijuana bales. The Court dealt with that issue first and held that, while the officers on the ground could not see all that transpired between the airplanes and the trucks parked nearby, the obvious smell of the marijuana when they approached the trucks gave them probable cause before they even saw the distinctive packaging. This probable cause thus extended to both the vehicles and the packages under Ross.

Sandra Day OConnor Former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States

Sandra Day O'Connor is a retired Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, who served from her appointment in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan until her retirement in 2006. She was the first woman to serve on the Court.

Certiorari, often abbreviated cert. in the United States, is a process for seeking judicial review and a writ issued by a court that agrees to review. A certiorari is issued by a superior court, directing an inferior court, tribunal, or other public authority to send the record of a proceeding for review.

In United States criminal law, probable cause is the standard by which police authorities have reason to obtain a warrant for the arrest of a suspected criminal or the issuing of a search warrant. It is also the standard by which grand juries issue criminal indictments. The principle behind the standard is to limit the power of authorities to perform random or abusive searches, and to promote lawful evidence gathering and procedural form during criminal arrest and prosecution. The standard also applies to personal or property searches.

Turning to the central issue of the case, the Court held that the three-day delay in conducting the search was not unreasonable. First, the Court noted that "our previous decisions indicate that the officers acted permissibly by waiting until they returned to DEA headquarters before they searched the vehicles and removed their contents... . There is no requirement that the warrantless search of a vehicle occur contemporaneously with its lawful seizure." Second, while Ross suggests that a vehicle search should occur immediately or shortly after seizure, it does not require any such limitation on a vehicle search. In fact, a second search of the vehicle in Ross occurred at the stationhouse after the first search on the street. The Court stated that it is inconsistent with the rationale of the automobile exception to make such a limitation. Third, the Court said that requiring an immediate search on the spot at the time of seizure would not further any privacy interests. The Court has consistently permitted delayed searches where the seizure was based on probable cause. Once the vehicle is seized, exigent circumstances for the search are no longer required if it existed at the time of seizure.

A search warrant is a court order that a magistrate or judge issues to authorize law enforcement officers to conduct a search of a person, location, or vehicle for evidence of a crime and to confiscate any evidence they find. In most countries a search warrant cannot be issued in aid of civil process.

Motor vehicle exception

The motor vehicle exception is a legal rule in the United States that modifies the normal probable cause requirement of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and, when applicable, allows a police officer to search a motor vehicle without a search warrant.

See also

In the United States, the exclusionary rule is a legal rule, based on constitutional law, that prevents evidence collected or analyzed in violation of the defendant's constitutional rights from being used in a court of law. This may be considered an example of a prophylactic rule formulated by the judiciary in order to protect a constitutional right. The exclusionary rule may also, in some circumstances at least, be considered to follow directly from the constitutional language, such as the Fifth Amendment's command that no person "shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself" and that no person "shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law".

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References

  1. United States v. Johns, 707F.2d1093 ( 9th Cir. 1983).
  2. United States v. Ross , 456 U.S. 798 (1982).