Ybarra v. Illinois
Annotate this Case
444 U.S. 85 (1979)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Ybarra v. Illinois, 444 U.S. 85 (1979)
Ybarra v. Illinois
Argued October 9, 1979
Decided November 28, 1979
444 U.S. 85
On the strength of a complaint for a search warrant based on an informant's statements that he had observed tinfoil packets on the person of a bartender and behind the bar at a certain tavern and that he had been advised by the bartender that the latter would have heroin for sale on a certain date, a judge of an Illinois state court issued a warrant authorizing the search of the tavern and the person of the bartender for "evidence of the offense of possession of a controlled substance." Upon entering the tavern to execute the warrant, police officers announced their purpose and advised those present that they were going to conduct a "cursory search for weapons." The officer who searched the customers felt what he described as "a cigarette pack with objects in it" in his first pat-down of appellant, one of the customers. The officer did not then remove this pack from appellant's pocket but, after patting down other customers, returned to appellant, frisked him again, retrieved the cigarette pack from his pants pocket, and found inside it six tinfoil packets containing heroin. After appellant was indicted for unlawful possession of a controlled substance, he filed a pretrial motion to suppress the contraband seized from his person at the tavern. The trial court denied the motion, finding that the search had been conducted under the authority of an Illinois statute which empowers law enforcement officers executing a search warrant to detain and search any person found on the premises in order to protect themselves from attack or to prevent the disposal or concealment of anything described in the warrant. Appellant was convicted, and the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed, holding that the Illinois statute was not unconstitutional in its application to the facts of this case.
Held: The searches of appellant and the seizure of what was in his pocket contravened the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Pp. 444 U. S. 90-96.
(a) When the search warrant was issued, the authorities had no probable cause to believe that any person found in the tavern, aside from the bartender, would be violating the law. The complaint for the warrant did not allege that the tavern was frequented by persons illegally purchasing drugs or that the informant had ever seen a patron of the tavern purchase drugs from the bartender or any other person.
And probable cause to search appellant was still absent when the police executed the warrant; upon entering the tavern, the police did not recognize appellant and had no reason to believe that he had committed, was committing, or was about to commit any offense. The police did possess a warrant based on probable cause to search the tavern where appellant happened to be when the warrant was executed, but a person's mere propinquity to others independently suspected of criminal activity does not, without more, give rise to probable cause to search that person. Sibron v. New York, 392 U. S. 40, 392 U. S. 62-63. Although the warrant gave the officers authority to search the premises and the bartender, it gave them no authority to invade the constitutional protections possessed individually by the tavern's customers. Pp. 444 U. S. 90-92.
(b) Nor was the action of the police constitutionally permissible on the theory that the first search of appellant constituted a reasonable frisk for weapons under the doctrine of Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1, and yielded probable cause to believe that appellant was carrying narcotics, thus justifying the second search for which no warrant was required in light of the exigencies of the situation coupled with the ease with which appellant could have disposed of the illegal substance. A reasonable belief that a person is armed and presently dangerous must form the predicate to a pat-down of the person for weapons. Here, the State is unable to articulate any specific fact that would have justified a police officer at the scene in even suspecting that appellant was armed and dangerous. Pp. 444 U. S. 92-93.
(c) The Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments will not be construed to permit evidence searches of persons who, at the commencement of the search, are on "compact" premises subject to a search warrant, even where the police have a "reasonable belief" that such persons "are connected with" drug trafficking and "may be concealing or carrying away the contraband." Cf. United States v. Di Re, 332 U. S. 581. Pp. 444 U. S. 94-96.
58 Ill.App.3d 57, 373 N.E.2d 1013, reversed and remanded.
STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BURGER, C.J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BLACKMUN and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined, post, p. 444 U. S. 96. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., and BLACKMUN, J., joined, post, p. 444 U. S. 98.