U.S. v. Place Case Brief

Search and Seizure Case Briefs

U.S. v. Place, 462 U.S. 696, 103 S.Ct. 2637 (1983)

FACTS: Place was waiting in line at Miami International Airport when his behavior attracted the attention of narcotics agents. The officers approached Place and asked for identification, which he provided. They asked for, and received consent, to search two checked suitcases. However, because the plane was ready to depart, they did not search the suitcases at that time.

After he left, the officers discovered some discrepancies in addresses on his luggage tags. (Investigation revealed neither address existed.) They contacted New York DEA and they approached Place as he deplaned at La Guardia Airport. They, too, asked for and received identification. He refused to consent to a search of his luggage, however.

Place was informed that they were going to hold the luggage and seek a federal warrant to search the luggage. The DEA Agent took the luggage to Kennedy Airport, where the suitcases were subjected to a “sniff test” by a drug canine. The dog reacted positively to one of the cases. At that point, 90 minutes had elapsed. The agents later received a search warrant and opened the suitcases, and found cocaine in one of them.

ISSUE: Was the detention and search of the suitcases lawful?


DISCUSSION: The limitations on the detention of a person apply to the detention of a person’s luggage (or other containers). The Agent made a seizure when he told Place he was taking the luggage to a Judge to get a warrant. On facts less than probable cause, it is reasonable to briefly detain luggage for limited investigative purposes. One must take into account the length of detention in determining whether the seizure is so minimally intrusive to be justified on reasonable suspicion. In assessing the length of detention, one must take into account whether police diligently pursue their investigation. In this case, agents knew when the flight would arrive and had ample time to arrange for the dog to be brought to their location. This would have minimized the intrusion on Place’s Fourth Amendment interest.