- 532 U.S. 769 (2001)
OCTOBER TERM, 2000
ARKANSAS v. SULLIVAN
ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF ARKANSAS
No. 00-262. Decided May 29, 2001
When the Arkansas police officer who stopped respondent Sullivan for speeding and improper window tinting remembered intelligence on Sullivan regarding narcotics, he arrested Sullivan for traffic violations and carrying a weapon and, during an inventory search of the vehicle, discovered a bag of drugs and drug-related materials. Sullivan was charged with, inter alia, various state-law drug offenses. The trial court granted Sullivan's motion to suppress the evidence seized from his vehicle on the basis that his arrest was a pretext to search him and therefore violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Mter affirming, the Arkansas Supreme Court denied the State's rehearing petition, rejecting the State's argument that the court took into account the officer's subjective motivation in disregard of Whren v. United States, 517 U. S. 806, and holding that, even if Whren precludes inquiry into an arresting officer's subjective motivation, that court could interpret the United States Constitution more broadly than this Court.
Held: The State Supreme Court's decision on rehearing is flatly contrary to this Court's controlling precedent. Its decision that the drug-related evidence should be suppressed because the police officer had an improper subjective motivation for making the stop cannot be squared with this Court's holding in Whren, supra, at 813, that "[sJubjective intentions play no role in ordinary, probable-cause Fourth Amendment analysis." The State Supreme Court's alternative holding, that it may interpret the Federal Constitution to provide greater protection than this Court's own precedents provide, is foreclosed by Oregon v. Hass, 420 U. S. 714.
Certiorari granted; 340 Ark. 315, 11 S. W. 3d 526, and 340 Ark. 318-A, 16 S. W. 3d 551, reversed and remanded.
In November 1998, Officer Joe Taylor of the Conway, Arkansas, Police Department stopped respondent Sullivan for speeding and for having an improperly tinted windshield. Taylor approached Sullivan's vehicle, explained the reason for the stop, and requested Sullivan's license, regis-
tration, and insurance documentation. Upon seeing Sullivan's license, Taylor realized that he was aware of " 'intelligence on [Sullivan] regarding narcotics.'" 340 Ark. 318-A, 318-B, 16 S. W. 3d 551, 552 (2000). When Sullivan opened his car door in an (unsuccessful) attempt to locate his registration and insurance papers, Taylor noticed a rusted roofing hatchet on the car's floorboard. Taylor then arrested Sullivan for speeding, driving without his registration and insurance documentation, carrying a weapon (the roofing hatchet), and improper window tinting.
After another officer arrived and placed Sullivan in his squad car, Officer Taylor conducted an inventory search of Sullivan's vehicle pursuant to the Conway Police Department's Vehicle Inventory Policy. Under the vehicle's armrest, Taylor discovered a bag containing a substance that appeared to him to be methamphetamine as well as numerous items of suspected drug paraphernalia. As a result of the detention and search, Sullivan was charged with various state-law drug offenses, unlawful possession of a weapon, and speeding.
Sullivan moved to suppress the evidence seized from his vehicle on the basis that his arrest was merely a "pretext and sham to search" him and, therefore, violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Pet. for Cert. 3. The trial court granted the suppression motion and, on the State's interlocutory appeal, the Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed. 340 Ark. 315, 11 S. W. 3d 526 (2000). The State petitioned for rehearing, contending that the court had erred by taking into account Officer Taylor's subjective motivation, in disregard of this Court's opinion in Whren v. United States, 517 U. S. 806 (1996). Over the dissent of three justices, the court rejected the State's argument that Whren makes "the ulterior motives of police officers ... irrelevant so long as there is probable cause for the traffic stop" and denied the State's rehearing petition. 340 Ark., at 318-B, 16 S. W. 3d, at 552.