Florida v. Rodriguez
Annotate this Case
469 U.S. 1 (1984)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Florida v. Rodriguez, 469 U.S. 1 (1984)
Florida v. Rodriguez
Decided November 13, 1984
469 U.S. 1
ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE DISTRICT COURT
OF APPEAL OF FLORIDA, THIRD DISTRICT
At a pretrial suppression hearing in a Florida trial court where respondent was charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, a county police officer, who had special training and experience in narcotics surveillance and apprehension, testified that he and another plainclothes officer followed respondent and his companions after they behaved in an unusual manner while leaving a ticket counter in the Miami International Airport; that as they proceeded to the concourse from which flights departed, respondent and his companions sighted the officers, and he made strange, evasive movements; that upon confronting respondent, the officer showed his badge, and respondent agreed to join his companions and the other officer at a nearby spot in the public area of the airport and to talk with the officers; that after respondent and one of his companions made conflicting statements in identifying themselves, they were informed that the officers were narcotics agents and were asked for consent to search respondent's luggage; and that respondent ultimately handed over the key, cocaine was found, and he and his companions were arrested. The court granted respondent's motion to suppress the cocaine, holding that his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments had been violated, and the Florida District Court of Appeal affirmed.
Held: Because of the public interest in suppressing illegal drug transactions and other serious crimes, a temporary detention for questioning in the case of an airport search even though constituting a "seizure" for
Fourth Amendment purposes -- may be justified without a showing of "probable cause" if there is "articulable suspicion" that a person has committed or is about to commit a crime. Here, respondent's initial contact with the officers, where he was asked to step aside and talk with them, was the sort of consensual encounter that implicates no Fourth Amendment interest. Assuming, arguendo, that there was a "seizure" thereafter, any such seizure was justified by "articulable suspicion," and the trial court erred in concluding otherwise. Moreover, contrary to the trial court's ruling, the State need not prove that a defendant consenting to a search knew that he had the right to withhold his consent. Thus, it cannot be determined whether the trial court's holding that the voluntariness of respondent's consent to the luggage search was tainted by the initial stop would have been the same if it had correctly applied the governing Fourth Amendment principles.