Washington v. Chrisman
Annotate this Case
455 U.S. 1 (1982)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Washington v. Chrisman, 455 U.S. 1 (1982)
Washington v. Chrisman
Argued November 3, 1981
Decided January 13, 1982
455 U.S. 1
An officer of the Washington State University police department observed a student (Overdahl) leave a dormitory carrying a bottle of gin; because Overdahl appeared to be under 21 (the minimum age allowable under Washington law for possession of alcoholic beverages), the officer stopped him and asked for identification. After Overdahl requested to retrieve his identification from his dormitory room, the officer accompanied him there and, while remaining in the open doorway watching Overdahl and his roommate (respondent), noticed what he believed to be marihuana seeds and a pipe lying on a desk in the room. The officer then entered the room, confirmed that the seeds were marihuana, and determined that the pipe smelled of marihuana, and informed Overdahl and resspondent of their rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U. S. 436. The students indicated their willingness to waive such rights, and after the officer asked if there were any other drugs in the room, respondent gave him a box which contained more marihuana and cash. After a second officer arrived, the students voluntarily consented, orally and in writing, to a search of the room, which yielded more marihuana and another controlled substance. Respondent was later charged with two counts of possessing the controlled substances and, after denial of his pretrial motion to suppress the evidence seized in the room, was convicted. The Washington Court of Appeals affirmed, but the Washington Supreme Court reversed. It held that, although Overdahl had been placed under lawful arrest, the officer had no right to enter the room and
seize contraband without a warrant, and that, because the students' consent to the subsequent search of the room was the fruit of the officer's initial entry, the contraband found during that search should also have been suppressed.
1. It is not "unreasonable" under the Fourth Amendment for a police officer, as a matter of foutine, to monitor the movements of an arrested person, as his judgment dictates, following the arrest. The officer's need to ensure his own safety -- as well as the integrity of the arrest -- is compelling. Such surveillance is not an impermissible invasion of the privacy or personal liberty of an individual who has been arrested. Once the officer had placed Overdahl under lawful arrest, he was authorized to accompany him to his room for the purpose of obtaining identification. The officer had a right to remain literally at Overdahl's elbow at all times, and thus a showing of "exigent circumstances" was not necessary to warrant the officer's accompanying Overdahl from the public corridor of the dormitory into his room. Pp. 455 U. S. 5-7.
2. The Fourth Amendment did not prohibit the seizure of the contraband discovered in plain view in the room. Regardless of where the officer was positioned with respect to the room's threshold when he observed the contraband, and regardless of whether he may have hesitated briefly at the doorway before entering the room, he did not abandon his right to be in the room with Overdahl whenever he considered it essential. Accordingly, he had the right to act as soon as he observed the seeds and pipe. Pp. 455 U. S. 8-9.
The seizure of other contraband taken from respondent's room pursuant to his valid consent did not violate the Fourth Amendment. He voluntarily produced marihuana after being informed of his Miranda rights, and he then consented to the search of the room. Thus, all of the seized contraband was properly admitted at his trial. Pp. 455 U. S. 9-10.
94 Wash.2d 711, 619 P.2d 971, reversed and remanded.
BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BLACKMUN, POWELL, REHNQUIST, STEVENS, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. WHITE, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, 455 U. S. 10.