United States v. Drayton, 536 U.S. 194 (2002)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the eleventh circuit

No. 01-631. Argued April 16, 2002—Decided June 17, 2002

The driver of the bus on which respondents were traveling allowed three police officers to board the bus as part of a routine drug and weapons interdiction effort. One officer knelt on the driver's seat, facing the rear of the bus, while another officer stayed in the rear, facing forward. Officer Lang worked his way from back to front, speaking with individual passengers as he went. To avoid blocking the aisle, Lang stood next to or just behind each passenger with whom he spoke. He testified that passengers who declined to cooperate or who chose to exit the bus at any time would have been allowed to do so without argument; that most people are willing to cooperate; that passengers often leave the bus for a cigarette or a snack while officers are on board; and that, although he sometimes informs passengers of their right to refuse to cooperate, he did not do so on the day in question. As Lang approached respondents, who were seated together, he held up his badge long enough for them to identify him as an officer. Speaking just loud enough for them to hear, he declared that the police were looking for drugs and weapons and asked if respondents had any bags. When both of them pointed to a bag overhead, Lang asked if they minded if he checked it. Respondent Brown agreed, and a search of the bag revealed no contraband. Lang then asked Brown whether he minded if Lang checked his person. Brown agreed, and a patdown revealed hard objects similar to drug packages in both thigh areas. Brown was arrested. Lang then asked respondent Drayton, "Mind if I check you?" When Drayton agreed, a patdown revealed objects similar to those found on Brown, and Drayton was arrested. A further search revealed that respondents had taped cocaine between their shorts. Charged with federal drug crimes, respondents moved to suppress the cocaine on the ground that their consent to the patdown searches was invalid. In denying the motions, the District Court determined that the police conduct was not coercive and respondents' consent to the search was voluntary. The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded based on its prior holdings that bus passengers do not feel free to disregard officers' requests to search absent some positive indication that consent may be refused.

Held: The Fourth Amendment does not require police officers to advise bus passengers of their right not to cooperate and to refuse consent to searches. Pp. 200-208.

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