Illinois v. Lafayette
462 U.S. 640 (1983)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Illinois v. Lafayette, 462 U.S. 640 (1983)

Illinois v. Lafayette

No. 81-1859

Argued April 20, 1983

Decided June 20, 1983

462 U.S. 640




After respondent was arrested for disturbing the peace, he was taken to the police station. There, without obtaining a warrant and in the process of booking him and inventorying his possessions, the police removed the contents of a shoulder bag respondent had been carrying, and found amphetamine pills. Respondent was subsequently charged with violating the Illinois Controlled Substances Act, and, at a pretrial hearing, the trial court ordered suppression of the pills. The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed, holding that the shoulder bag search did not constitute a valid search incident to a lawful arrest or a valid inventory search of respondent's belongings.

Held: The search of respondent's shoulder bag was a valid inventory search. Pp. 462 U. S. 643-648.

(a) Consistent with the Fourth Amendment, it is reasonable for police to search the personal effects of a person under lawful arrest as part of the routine administrative procedure at a police station incident to booking and jailing the suspect. The justification for such searches does not rest on probable cause, and hence the absence of a warrant is immaterial to the reasonableness of the search. Here, every consideration of orderly police administration -- protection of a suspect's property, deterrence of false claims of theft against the police, security, and identification of the suspect -- benefiting both the police and the public points toward the appropriateness of the examination of respondent's shoulder bag. Pp. 462 U. S. 643-647.

(b) The fact that the protection of the public and of respondent's property might have been achieved by less intrusive means does not, in itself, render the search unreasonable. Even if some less intrusive means existed, it would be unreasonable to expect police officers in the everyday course of business to make fine and subtle distinctions in deciding which containers or items may be searched, and which must be sealed without examination as a unit. Pp. 462 U. S. 647-648.

99 Ill.App.3d 830, 425 N.E.2d 1383, reversed and remanded.

BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, REHNQUIST, STEVENS, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 462 U. S. 649

Page 462 U. S. 641

CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question presented is whether, at the time an arrested person arrives at a police station, the police may, without obtaining a warrant, search a shoulder bag carried by that person.


On September 1, 1980, at about 10 p.m., Officer Maurice Mietzner of the Kankakee City Police arrived at the Town Cinema in Kankakee, Ill., in response to a call about a disturbance. There he found respondent involved in an altercation with the theater manager. He arrested respondent for disturbing the peace, handcuffed him, and took him to the police station. Respondent carried a purse-type shoulder bag on the trip to the station.

At the police station, respondent was taken to the booking room; there, Officer Mietzner removed the handcuffs from respondent and ordered him to empty his pockets and place

Page 462 U. S. 642

the contents on the counter. After doing so, respondent took a package of cigarettes from his shoulder bag and placed the bag on the counter. Mietzner then removed the contents of the bag, and found 10 amphetamine pills inside the plastic wrap of a cigarette package.

Respondent was subsequently charged with violating § 402(b) of the Illinois Controlled Substances Act, Ill.Rev.Stat., ch. 56 1/2,

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