Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 7 (1996)

Page:   Index   Previous  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  Next



Opinion of the Court

regulation, is not accorded to searches that are not made for those purposes. See Bertine, supra, at 371-372; Burger, supra, at 702-703.

Petitioners also rely upon Colorado v. Bannister, 449 U. S. 1 (1980) (per curiam), a case which, like this one, involved a traffic stop as the prelude to a plain-view sighting and arrest on charges wholly unrelated to the basis for the stop. Petitioners point to our statement that "[t]here was no evidence whatsoever that the officer's presence to issue a traffic citation was a pretext to confirm any other previous suspicion about the occupants" of the car. Id., at 4, n. 4. That dictum at most demonstrates that the Court in Bannister found no need to inquire into the question now under discussion; not that it was certain of the answer. And it may demonstrate even less than that: If by "pretext" the Court meant that the officer really had not seen the car speeding, the statement would mean only that there was no reason to doubt probable cause for the traffic stop.

It would, moreover, be anomalous, to say the least, to treat a statement in a footnote in the per curiam Bannister opinion as indicating a reversal of our prior law. Petitioners' difficulty is not simply a lack of affirmative support for their position. Not only have we never held, outside the context of inventory search or administrative inspection (discussed above), that an officer's motive invalidates objectively justifiable behavior under the Fourth Amendment; but we have repeatedly held and asserted the contrary. In United States v. Villamonte-Marquez, 462 U. S. 579, 584, n. 3 (1983), we held that an otherwise valid warrantless boarding of a vessel by customs officials was not rendered invalid "because the customs officers were accompanied by a Louisiana state policeman, and were following an informant's tip that a vessel in the ship channel was thought to be carrying marihuana." We flatly dismissed the idea that an ulterior motive might serve to strip the agents of their legal justification. In United States v. Robinson, 414 U. S. 218 (1973), we held that

Page:   Index   Previous  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  Next

Last modified: October 4, 2007