Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690, 11 (1996)

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Scalia, J., dissenting

to transact business or to visit family or friends. The background facts, though rarely the subject of explicit findings, inform the judge's assessment of the historical facts.

In a similar vein, our cases have recognized that a police officer may draw inferences based on his own experience in deciding whether probable cause exists. See, e. g., United States v. Ortiz, 422 U. S. 891, 897 (1975). To a layman the sort of loose panel below the back seat armrest in the automobile involved in this case may suggest only wear and tear, but to Officer Luedke, who had searched roughly 2,000 cars for narcotics, it suggested that drugs may be secreted inside the panel. An appeals court should give due weight to a trial court's finding that the officer was credible and the inference was reasonable.

We vacate the judgments and remand the case to the Court of Appeals to review de novo the District Court's determinations that the officer had reasonable suspicion and probable cause in this case.

It is so ordered.

Justice Scalia, dissenting.

The Court today decides that a district court's determinations whether there was probable cause to justify a warrantless search and reasonable suspicion to make an investigatory stop should be reviewed de novo. We have in the past reviewed some mixed questions of law and fact on a de novo basis, and others on a deferential basis, depending upon essentially practical considerations. Because, with respect to the questions at issue here, the purpose of the determination and its extremely fact-bound nature will cause de novo review to have relatively little benefit, it is in my view unwise to require courts of appeals to undertake the searching inquiry that standard requires. I would affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

As the Court recognizes, determinations of probable cause and reasonable suspicion involve a two-step process. First,

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