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Maryland v. Dyson

U.S.
Jun 21, 1999
527 U.S. 465 (1999)

Summary

holding that the automobile exception has no separate exigency exception

Summary of this case from United States v. Ford

Opinion

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF SPECIAL APPEALS OF MARYLAND

No. 98-1062

Decided June 21, 1999

After receiving a tip from a reliable infomant, sheriffs deputies stopped and searched respondet's vehicle and found 23 grams of cocaine in the trunk. The Court of Special Appeals reversed his drug conviction, holdign that in order for the automobile exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement to apply there must not only be probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime is contained in the car, but also a separate finding of exigency precluding the police from obtaining a warrant.

Held: The automabile exceptiondoes not require a separate finding of exigency in addition to a finding of probale acause. This Court's established precedent makes clear that in cases where there was probable cause to search a vehicle, a search is not unreasonable if based on facts that would justify issuing a warrant, even though a warrant has not been actually abtained. E.g., United States v. Ross, 456 U.S. 798, 809. Here, the lower court found "abundant probable cause" that the car contained contraband, which alone satisfies the warrant requirement's automobile exception.

Certiorari granted; 122 Md. App. 413. 712 A.2d 573, reversed.


In this case, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals held that the Fourth Amendment requires police to obtain a search warrant before searching a vehicle which they have probable cause to believe contains illegal drugs. Because this holding rests upon an incorrect interpretation of the automobile exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement, we grant the petition for certiorari and reverse.

At 11 a.m. on the morning of July 2, 1996, a St. Mary's County (Maryland) Sheriff's Deputy received a tip from a reliable confidential informant that respondent had gone to New York to buy drugs, and would be returning to Maryland in a rented red Toyota, license number DDY 787, later that day with a large quantity of cocaine. The deputy investigated the tip and found that the license number given to him by the informant belonged to a red Toyota Corolla that had been rented to respondent, who was a known drug dealer in St. Mary's County. When respondent returned to St. Mary's County in the rented car at 1 a.m. on July 3, the deputies stopped and searched the vehicle, finding 23 grams of crack cocaine in a duffel bag in the trunk. Respondent was arrested, tried, and convicted of conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute. He appealed, arguing that the trial court had erroneously denied his motion to suppress the cocaine on the alternative grounds that the police lacked probable cause, or that even if there was probable cause, the warrantless search violated the Fourth Amendment because there was sufficient time after the informant's tip to obtain a warrant.

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals reversed, 122 Md. App. 413, 712 A.2d 573 (1998), holding that in order for the automobile exception to the warrant requirement to apply, there must not only be probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime is contained in the automobile, but also a separate finding of exigency precluding the police from obtaining a warrant. Id., at 424, 712 A.2d, at 578. Applying this rule to the facts of the case, the Court of Special Appeals concluded that although there was "abundant probable cause," the search violated the Fourth Amendment because there was no exigency that prevented or even made it significantly difficult for the police to obtain a search warrant. Id., at 426, 712 A.2d, at 579. The Maryland Court of Appeals denied certiorari. 351 Md. 287, 718 A.2d 235 (1998). We grant certiorari and now reverse.

The Fourth Amendment generally requires police to secure a warrant before conducting a search. California v. Carney, 471 U.S. 386, 390-391 (1985). As we recognized nearly 75 years ago in Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132, 153 (1925), there is an exception to this requirement for searches of vehicles. And under our established precedent, the "automobile exception" has no separate exigency requirement. We made this clear in United States v. Ross, 456 U.S. 798, 809 (1982), when we said that in cases where there was probable cause to search a vehicle "a search is not unreasonable if based on facts that would justify the issuance of a warrant, even though a warrant has not been actually obtained." (Emphasis added.) In a case with virtually identical facts to this one (even down to the bag of cocaine in the trunk of the car), Pennsylvania v. Labron, 518 U.S. 938 (1996) (per curiam), we repeated that the automobile exception does not have a separate exigency requirement: "If a car is readily mobile and probable cause exists to believe it contains contraband, the Fourth Amendment . . . permits police to search the vehicle without more." Id., at 940.

In this case, the Court of Special Appeals found that there was "abundant probable cause" that the car contained contraband. This finding alone satisfies the automobile exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement, a conclusion correctly reached by the trial court when it denied respondent's motion to suppress. The holding of the Court of Special Appeals that the "automobile exception" requires a separate finding of exigency in addition to a finding of probable cause is squarely contrary to our holdings in Ross and Labron. We therefore grant the petition for writ of certiorari and reverse the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals. It is so ordered.

JUSTICE BREYER in dissent suggests that we should not summarily reverse a judgment in a criminal case, even though he agrees with this opinion as a matter of law. But to adopt that position would simply leave it in the hands of a respondent — who had obtained a lower court judgment manifestly wrong as a matter of federal constitutional law — to avoid summary reversal by the simple expedient of refusing to file a response. While we have on occasion appointed an attorney to file a brief as amicus curiae in a case where we have granted certiorari, in order to be sure that the argued case is fully briefed, we have never done so in cases which we have summarily reversed. The reason for this is that a summary reversal does not decide any new or unanswered question of law, but simply corrects a lower court's demonstrably erroneous application of federal law.


I agree that the Court's per curiam opinion correctly states the law, but because respondent's counsel is not a member of this Court's bar and did not wish to become one, respondent has not filed a brief in opposition to the petition for certiorari. I believe we should not summarily reverse in a criminal case, irrespective of the merits, where the respondent is represented by a counsel unable to file a response, without first inviting an attorney to file a brief as amicus curiae in response to the petition for certiorari. For this reason, I dissent.


Summaries of

Maryland v. Dyson

U.S.
Jun 21, 1999
527 U.S. 465 (1999)

holding that the automobile exception has no separate exigency exception

Summary of this case from United States v. Ford

holding that the automobile exception has no separate exigency requirement

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Freemyer

holding that there need not be an exigency for the automobile exception to apply

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Hines

holding that probable cause supported police search of a vehicle when a "reliable confidential informant" told officers that "a rented red Toyota" with a particular license number would contain drugs

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Davis

holding that there need not be an exigency for the automobile exception to apply

Summary of this case from United States v. Thompson

holding that the automobile exception has no separate exigency requirement

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Smith

holding exigent circumstances need not exist, beyonda vehicle's inherent mobility, and probable cause to believe the vehicle contains contraband

Summary of this case from State v. Holly

holding that the "automobile exception" to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement is satisfied by probable cause even if exigent circumstances are not present

Summary of this case from Baldwin v. Reagan

holding that where probable cause for the search of an automobile exists, an officer need not show exigent circumstances beyond the inherent mobility of the vehicle in order to justify a search

Summary of this case from Johnson v. Commonwealth

holding that under the "automobile execution," a vehicle may be searched without a warrant based on probable cause alone

Summary of this case from State v. McClure

holding that the Carroll doctrine has no separate exigency requirement

Summary of this case from Dixon v. State of Maryland

holding that the automobile exception is reserved for cases in which there are "facts that would justify the issuance of a warrant, even though a warrant has not been actually obtained"

Summary of this case from Commonwealth v. Hill

finding probable cause that contraband or evidence of a crime is contained in a vehicle is needed for warrantless searches, but exigent circumstances are not

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Pertillo

finding the automobile exception requires no further exigency requirement as long as the facts are sufficient to support probable cause

Summary of this case from State v. Hoskins

concluding that a finding of probable cause "alone satisfies the automobile exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement"

Summary of this case from State v. Allinder

upholding warrantless search of vehicle where police possessed probable cause to believe it contained illegal drugs

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Hudson

upholding a search based on a tip from a "reliable" CI that was corroborated by law enforcement observations

Summary of this case from United States v. Carter

deciding that the automobile exception to the warrant requirement is satisfied if there is probable cause to believe a car contains contraband

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Maldonado

affirming denial of suppression of drugs found in bag in trunk

Summary of this case from State v. Williams

reversing Maryland Court of Special Appeals holding that warrantless automobile search violated Fourth Amendment because no exigent circumstances existed to prevent police from obtaining warrant

Summary of this case from State v. Reyna

rejecting a contention that a search pursuant to the automobile exception was invalid because the officers had time to obtain a warrant prior to searching the car, but declined to do so

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Blaylock

explaining that the automobile exception simply requires that a car be readily mobile and that probable cause exists to believe it contains contraband

Summary of this case from United States v. Jones

explaining that the automobile exception simply requires that a car be readily mobile and that probable cause exists to believe it contains contraband

Summary of this case from United States v. Jones

noting that “the automobile does not have a separate exigency requirement,” partly because vehicles are “readily mobile”

Summary of this case from United States v. Katzin

noting a warrant is generally required under the Fourth Amendment

Summary of this case from United States v. Strother
Case details for

Maryland v. Dyson

Case Details

Full title:MARYLAND v . KEVIN DARNELL DYSON

Court:U.S.

Date published: Jun 21, 1999

Citations

527 U.S. 465 (1999)

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