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United States v. Ross

Supreme Court of the United States

March 1, 1982, Argued ; June 1, 1982, Decided

No. 80-2209


 [*799]   [***578]   [**2160]  JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.

 In Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132, the Court held that ] a warrantless search of an automobile stopped by police officers who had probable cause to believe the vehicle contained contraband was not unreasonable within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. The Court in Carroll did not explicitly  [*800]  address the scope of the search that is permissible. In this case, we consider the extent to which police officers -- who have legitimately stopped an automobile and who have probable cause to believe that contraband is concealed somewhere within it -- may conduct a probing search of compartments and containers within the vehicle whose contents are not in plain view. We hold that they may conduct a search of the vehicle that is as thorough as a magistrate could authorize [****6]  in a warrant "particularly describing the place to be searched." 2

In the evening of November 27, 1978, an informant who had previously proved to be reliable telephoned Detective Marcum of the District of Columbia Police Department and told him that an individual known as "Bandit" was selling narcotics kept in the trunk of a car parked at 439 Ridge Street. The informant stated that he had just observed "Bandit" complete a sale and that "Bandit" had told him that additional narcotics were in the trunk. The informant gave Marcum a detailed description of "Bandit"  [****7]  and stated that the car was a "purplish maroon" Chevrolet Malibu with District of Columbia license plates.

Accompanied by Detective Cassidy and Sergeant Gonzales, Marcum immediately drove to the area and found a maroon Malibu parked in front of 439 Ridge Street. A license check disclosed that the car was registered to Albert Ross; a computer check on Ross revealed that he fit the informant's description and used the alias "Bandit." In two passes through the neighborhood the officers did not observe anyone matching the informant's description. To avoid alerting persons on the street, they left the area.

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456 U.S. 798 *; 102 S. Ct. 2157 **; 72 L. Ed. 2d 572 ***; 1982 U.S. LEXIS 18 ****; 50 U.S.L.W. 4580



Disposition:  210 U. S. App. D. C. 342, 655 F.2d 1159, reversed and remanded.


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Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Search & Seizure, Probable Cause, Criminal Law & Procedure, Warrantless Searches, Vehicle Searches, General Overview, Vehicle Searches, Search Warrants, Probable Cause, Affirmations & Oaths, Personal Knowledge, Expectation of Privacy, Plain View, Plain View Doctrine, Scope of Search Warrants, Use of Weapons, Simple Use, Elements