Vale v. Louisiana,
399 U.S. 30 (1970)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Vale v. Louisiana, 399 U.S. 30 (1970)

Vale v. Louisiana

No. 727

Argued March 4-5, 1970

Decided June 22, 1970

399 U.S. 30


Police officers, possessing warrants for appellant's arrest, were watching the house where he resided. They observed what they suspected was an exchange of narcotics between a known addict and appellant outside the house, after appellant had gone into the house and brought something out to the addict. They arrested appellant at the front steps and announced that they would search the house. A search of the then-unoccupied house disclosed narcotics in a bedroom. The Louisiana Supreme Court, affirming appellant's conviction for possessing heroin, held that the search did not violate the Fourth Amendment, as it occurred "in the immediate vicinity of the arrest" and was "substantially contemporaneous therewith." Consideration by this Court of the question of jurisdiction was postponed to the hearing of the case on the merits.

Held: The warrantless search of appellant's house violated the Fourth Amendment as made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 399 U. S. 33-35.

(a) Even if Chimel v. California, 395 U. S. 752, holding that the warrantless search of a house can be justified as incident to a lawful arrest only if confined to the area within the arrestee's reach, were given retroactive effect (a question not decided here), there is no precedent of this Court to sustain the validity of this search. P. 399 U. S. 33.

(b) If a search of a house is to be upheld as incident to an arrest, the arrest must take place inside the house. Pp. 399 U. S. 33-34.

(c) A warrantless search of a dwelling is constitutionally valid only in "a few specifically established and well delineated exceptions," none of which the State has shown here, and the search cannot be justified solely because narcotics, which are easily destroyed, are involved. Pp. 399 U. S. 34-35.

Appeal dismissed and certiorari granted; 252 La. 1056, 215 So.2d 811, reversed and remanded.

Page 399 U. S. 31

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