Rios v. United States
364 U.S. 253 (1960)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Rios v. United States, 364 U.S. 253 (1960)

Rios v. United States

No. 52

Argued March 29, 1960

Decided June 27, 1960

364 U.S. 253

Syllabus

1. Evidence seized in an unreasonable search by state officers must be excluded from a federal criminal trial upon the timely objection of a defendant who has standing to complain. Elkins v. United States, ante, p. 364 U. S. 206. P. 364 U. S. 255.

2. Without probable cause for arrest and without a warrant for search or arrest, state police officers followed a taxicab in which petitioner was riding and approached it when it stopped at a traffic light. The record is unclear as to the sequence of the events which followed, but the cab door was opened, petitioner dropped a recognizable package of narcotics to the floor of the vehicle, and one officer grabbed the petitioner as he alighted from the cab and another officer retrieved the package. In a state prosecution for unlawful possession of narcotics, the evidence was suppressed on the ground that it had been unlawfully seized, and petitioner was acquitted. Later, in a federal prosecution under 21 U.S.C. § 174 for unlawful receipt and concealment of narcotics, the Federal District Court denied a timely motion to suppress and admitted the package of narcotics in evidence, and petitioner was convicted. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: the case is remanded to the District Court for determination as to the lawfulness of the state officers' conduct, in accordance with the basic principles governing the validity of searches and seizures by federal officers under the Fourth Amendment, and for other proceedings consistent with this opinion. Pp. 364 U. S. 255-262.

(a) On the record, it cannot be said that there existed probable cause for an arrest when the officers decided to alight from their car and approach the taxicab in which petitioner was riding. P. 364 U. S. 261.

(b) Therefore, if the arrest occurred when the officers took their positions at the doors of the taxicab, nothing that happened thereafter could make the arrest lawful or justify a search as its incident. Pp. 364 U. S. 261-262.

Page 364 U. S. 254

(c) If the petitioner voluntarily revealed the package of narcotics to the officers' view, a lawful arrest could then have been supported by reasonable cause to believe that a felony was being committed in their presence. P. 364 U. S. 262.

(d) The validity of the search turns upon the narrow question of when the arrest occurred, and the answer to that question depends upon an evaluation of the conflicting testimony of those who were present at the time. P. 364 U. S. 262.

256 F.2d 173, judgment vacated and cause remanded.

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