United States v. Drayton, 536 U.S. 194, 2 (2002)

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Cite as: 536 U. S. 194 (2002)


(a) Among its rulings in Florida v. Bostick, 501 U. S. 429, this Court held that the Fourth Amendment permits officers to approach bus passengers at random to ask questions and request their consent to searches, provided a reasonable person would feel free to decline the requests or otherwise terminate the encounter, id., at 436. The Court identified as "particularly worth noting" the factors that the officer, although obviously armed, did not unholster his gun or use it in a threatening way, and that he advised respondent passenger that he could refuse consent to a search. Relying on this last factor, the Eleventh Circuit erroneously adopted what is in effect a per se rule that evidence obtained during suspicionless drug interdictions on buses must be suppressed unless the officers have advised passengers of their right not to cooperate and to refuse consent to a search. Pp. 200-203.

(b) Applying Bostick's framework to this case demonstrates that the police did not seize respondents. The officers gave the passengers no reason to believe that they were required to answer questions. When Lang approached respondents, he did not brandish a weapon or make any intimidating movements. He left the aisle free so that respondents could exit. He spoke to passengers one by one and in a polite, quiet voice. Nothing he said would suggest to a reasonable person that he or she was barred from leaving the bus or otherwise terminating the encounter, or would indicate a command to answer his questions. There were ample grounds to conclude that their encounter was cooperative and not coercive or confrontational. There was no overwhelming show or application of force, no intimidating movement, no brandishing of weapons, no blocking of exits, no threat, and no command, not even an authoritative tone of voice. Had this encounter occurred on the street, it doubtless would be constitutional. The fact that an encounter takes place on a bus does not on its own transform standard police questioning into an illegal seizure. See Bostick, supra, at 439-440. Indeed, because many fellow passengers are present to witness officers' conduct, a reasonable person may feel even more secure in deciding not to cooperate on a bus than in other circumstances. Lang's display of his badge is not dispositive. See, e. g., Florida v. Rodriguez, 469 U. S. 1, 5-6. And, because it is well known that most officers are armed, the presence of a holstered firearm is unlikely to be coercive absent active brandishing of the weapon. Officer Hoover's position at the front of the bus also does not tip the scale to respondents, since he did nothing to intimidate passengers and said or did nothing to suggest that people could not exit. See INS v. Delgado, 466 U. S. 210, 219. Finally, Lang's testimony that only a few passengers refuse to cooperate does not suggest that a reasonable person would not feel free to terminate the encounter. See id., at 216. Drayton argues unsuccessfully that no reasonable person in his position would feel free to terminate the encounter


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