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Law School Case Brief

Florida v. Royer - 460 U.S. 491, 103 S. Ct. 1319 (1983)


Not all seizures of the person must be justified by probable cause to arrest for a crime. Any restraint on the person amounting to a seizure for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment is invalid unless justified by probable cause. 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. Reasonable suspicion of criminal activity warrants a temporary seizure for the purpose of questioning limited to the purpose of the stop.


After purchasing a one-way airline ticket to New York City at Miami International Airport under an assumed name and checking his two suitcases bearing identification tags with the same assumed name, Royer went to the concourse leading to the airline boarding area, where he was approached by two detectives, who previously had observed him and believed that his characteristics fit the so-called "drug courier profile." Upon request, but without oral consent, Royer produced his airline ticket and driver's license, which carried his correct name. When the detectives asked about the discrepancy in names, Royer explained that a friend had made the ticket reservation in the assumed name. The detectives then informed Royer that they were narcotics investigators and that they had reason to suspect him of transporting narcotics, and, without returning his airline ticket or driver's license, asked him to accompany them to a small room adjacent to the concourse. Without Royer’s consent, one of the detectives retrieved Royer's luggage from the airline and brought it to the room. While he did not respond to the detectives' request that he consent to a search of the luggage, Royer produced a key and unlocked one of the suitcases in which marihuana was found. When Royer said he did not know the combination to the lock on the second suitcase but did not object to its being opened, the officers pried it open and found more marihuana. Royer was then told he was under arrest. Following the Florida trial court's denial of his pretrial motion to suppress the evidence obtained in the search of the suitcases, Royer was convicted of felony possession of marihuana. The Florida District Court of Appeal reversed, holding that Royer had been involuntarily confined within the small room without probable cause, that at the time his consent to search was obtained, the involuntary detention had exceeded the limited restraint permitted by Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, and that such consent was therefore invalid because tainted by the unlawful confinement.


Was the consent to the search given by Royer effective?




The United States Supreme Court held that Royer’s consent was involuntary because Royer was being illegally detained when he consented to the search of his luggage. When the officers identified themselves as narcotics agents, told Royer he was suspected of transporting narcotics, and asked him to accompany them to the police room while retaining his ticket and driver's license, Royer’s was effectively seized for purposes of the Fourth Amendment.

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