|United States v. Ross
[ Stevens ]
[ Blackmun ]
[ Powell ]
[ White ]
[ Marshall ]
United States v. Ross
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT
JUSTICE MARSHALL, with whom JUSTICE BRENNAN joins, dissenting.
The majority today not only repeals all realistic limits on warrantless automobile searches, it repeals the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement itself. By equating a police officer's estimation of probable cause with a magistrate's, the Court utterly disregards the value of a neutral and detached magistrate. For, as we recently, and unanimously, reaffirmed:
The warrant traditionally has represented an independent assurance that a search and arrest will not proceed without probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed, and that the person or place named in the warrant is involved in the crime. Thus, an issuing magistrate must meet two tests. He must be neutral and detached, and he must be capable of determining whether probable cause exists for the requested arrest or search. This Court long has insisted that inferences of probable cause be drawn by
a neutral and detached magistrate, instead of being judged by the officer engaged in the often competitive enterprise of ferreting out crime.
Shadwick v. City of Tampa, 407 U.S. 345, 350 (1972), quoting Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10, 14 (1948). A police officer on the beat hardly satisfies these standards. In adopting today's new rule, the majority opinion shows contempt for these Fourth Amendment values, ignores this Court's precedents, is internally inconsistent, and produces anomalous and unjust consequences. I therefore dissent.
According to the majority, whenever police have probable cause to believe that contraband may be found within an [p828] automobile that they have stopped on the highway, [n1] they may search not only the automobile but also any container found inside it, without obtaining a warrant. The scope of the search, we are told, is as broad as a magistrate could authorize in a warrant to search the automobile. The majority makes little attempt to justify this rule in terms of recognized Fourth Amendment values. The Court simply ignores the critical function that a magistrate serves. And although the Court purports to rely on the mobility of an automobile and the impracticability of obtaining a warrant, it never explains why these concerns permit the warrantless search of a container, which can easily be seized and immobilized while police are obtaining a warrant.
The new rule adopted by the Court today is completely incompatible with established Fourth Amendment principles, and takes a first step toward an unprecedented "probable cause" exception to the warrant requirement. In my view, under accepted standards, the warrantless search of the containers in this case clearly violates the Fourth Amendment.
[I]t is a cardinal principle that "searches conducted outside the judicial process, without prior approval by judge or magistrate, are per se unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment -- subject only to a few specifically established and well delineated exceptions."
Mincey v. Arizona, 437 U.S. 385, 390 (1978), quoting Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 357 (1967). The warrant requirement is crucial to protecting Fourth Amendment rights because of the importance of having the probable cause determination made in the first instance by a neutral and detached magistrate. Time and [p829] again, we have emphasized that the warrant requirement provides a number of protections that a post hoc judicial evaluation of a policeman's probable cause does not.
The requirement of prior review by a detached and neutral magistrate limits the concentration of power held by executive officers over the individual, and prevents some overbroad or unjustified searches from occurring at all. See United States v. United States District Court, 407 U.S. 297, 317 (1972); Abel v. United States, 362 U.S. 217, 252 (1960) (BRENNAN, J., joined by Warren, C.J., and Black and Douglas, JJ., dissenting). Prior review may also "prevent hindsight from coloring the evaluation of the reasonableness of a search or seizure." United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U.S. 543, 565 (1976); see also Beck v. Ohio, 379 U.S. 89, 96 (1964). Furthermore, even if a magistrate would have authorized the search that the police conducted, the interposition of a magistrate's neutral judgment reassures the public that the orderly process of law has been respected:
The point of the Fourth Amendment, which often is not grasped by zealous officers, is not that it denies law enforcement the support of the usual inferences which reasonable men draw from evidence. Its protection consists in requiring that those inferences be drawn by a neutral and detached magistrate, instead of being judged by the officer engaged in the often competitive enterprise of ferreting out crime.
Johnson v. United States, supra, at 13-14. See also Marshall v. Barlow's, Inc., 436 U.S. 307, 323 (1978); United States v. United States District Court, supra, at 321. The safeguards embodied in the warrant requirement apply as forcefully to automobile searches as to any others.
Our cases do recognize a narrow exception to the warrant requirement for certain automobile searches. Throughout our decisions, two major considerations have been advanced to justify the automobile exception to the warrant requirement. [p830] We have upheld only those searches that are actually justified by those considerations.
First, these searches have been justified on the basis of the exigency of the mobility of the automobile. See, e.g., Chambers v. Maroney, 399 U.S. 42 (1970); Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132 (1925). This "mobility" rationale is something of a misnomer, cf. Cady v. Dombrowski, 413 U.S. 433, 442-443 (1973), since the police ordinarily can remove the car's occupants and secure the vehicle on the spot. However, the inherent mobility of the vehicle often creates situations in which the police's only alternative to an immediate search may be to release the automobile from their possession. [n2] This alternative creates an unacceptably high risk of losing the contents of the vehicle, and is a principal basis for the Court's automobile exception to the warrant requirement. See Chambers, supra, at 51, n. 9.
In many cases, however, the police will, prior to searching the car, have cause to arrest the occupants and bring them to the station for booking. In this situation, the police can ordinarily seize the automobile and bring it to the station. Because the vehicle is now in the exclusive control of the authorities, any subsequent search cannot be justified by the mobility of the car. Rather, an immediate warrantless search of the vehicle is permitted because of the second major justification for the automobile exception: the diminished expectation of privacy in an automobile.
Because an automobile presents much of its contents in open view to police officers who legitimately stop it on a public way, is used for travel, and is subject to significant government [p831] regulation, this Court has determined that the intrusion of a warrantless search of an automobile is constitutionally less significant than a warrantless search of more private areas. See Arkansas v. Sanders, 442 U.S. 753, 761 (1979) (collecting cases). This justification has been invoked for warrantless automobile searches in circumstances where the exigency of mobility was clearly not present. See, e.g., South Dakota v. Opperman, 428 U.S. 364, 367-368 (1976); Cady v. Dombrowski, supra, at 441-442. By focusing on the defendant's reasonable expectation of privacy, this Court has refused to require a warrant in situations where the process of obtaining such a warrant would be more intrusive than the actual search itself. Cf. Katz v. United States, supra. A defendant may consider the seizure of the car a greater intrusion than an immediate search. See Chambers, supra, at 51-52. Therefore, even where police can bring both the defendant and the automobile to the station safely and can house the car while they seek a warrant, the police are permitted to decide whether instead to conduct an immediate search of the car. In effect, the warrantless search is permissible because a warrant requirement would not provide significant protection of the defendant's Fourth Amendment interests.
The majority's rule is flatly inconsistent with these established Fourth Amendment principles concerning the scope of the automobile exception and the importance of the warrant requirement. Historically, the automobile exception has been limited to those situations where its application is compelled by the justifications described above. Today, the majority makes no attempt to base its decision on these justifications. This failure is not surprising, since the traditional rationales for the automobile exception plainly do not support extending it to the search of a container found inside a vehicle. [p832]
The practical mobility problem -- deciding what to do with both the car and the occupants if an immediate search is not conducted -- is simply not present in the case of movable containers, which can easily be seized and brought to the magistrate. See Sanders, 442 U.S. at 762-766, and nn. 10, 14. The "lesser expectation of privacy" rationale also has little force. A container, as opposed to the car itself, does not reflect diminished privacy interests. See id. at 762, 764-765. Moreover, the practical corollary that this Court has recognized -- that depriving occupants of the use of a car may be a greater intrusion than an immediate search -- is of doubtful relevance here, since the owner of a container will rarely suffer significant inconvenience by being deprived of its use while a warrant is being obtained.
Ultimately, the majority, unable to rely on the justifications underlying the automobile exception, simply creates a new "probable cause" exception to the warrant requirement for automobiles. We have soundly rejected attempts to create such an exception in the past, see Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443 (1971), and we should do so again today.
In purported reliance on Carroll v. United States, supra, the Court defines the permissible scope of a search by reference to the scope of a probable cause search that a magistrate could authorize. Under Carroll, however, the mobility of an automobile is what is critical to the egality of a warrantless search. Of course, Carroll properly confined the search to the probable cause limits that would also limit a magistrate, but it did not suggest that the search could be as broad as a magistrate could authorize upon a warrant. A magistrate could authorize a search encompassing containers, even though the mobility rationale does not justify such a broad search. Indeed, the Court's reasoning might have justified the search of the entire car in Coolidge despite the fact that the car was not "mobile" at all. Thus, in blithely suggesting that Carroll "neither broadened nor limited the scope of a lawful search based on probable cause," [p833] ante at 820, the majority assumes what has never been the law: that the scope of the automobile mobility exception to the warrant requirement is as broad as the scope of a "lawful" probable cause search of an automobile, i.e., one authorized by a magistrate.
The majority's sleight of hand ignores the obvious differences between the function served by a magistrate in making a determination of probable cause and the function of the automobile exception. It is irrelevant to a magistrate's function whether the items subject to search are mobile, may be in danger of destruction, or are impractical to store, or whether an immediate search would be less intrusive than a seizure without a warrant. A magistrate's only concern is whether there is probable cause to search them. Where suspicion has focused not on a particular item, but only on a vehicle, home, or office, the magistrate might reasonably authorize a search of closed containers at the location as well. But an officer on the beat who searches an automobile without a warrant is not entitled to conduct a broader search than the exigency obviating the warrant justifies. After all, what justifies the warrantless search is not probable cause alone, but probable cause coupled with the mobility of the automobile. Because the scope of a warrantless search should depend on the scope of the justification for dispensing with a warrant, the entire premise of the majority's opinion fails to support its conclusion.
The majority's rule masks the startling assumption that a policeman's determination of probable cause is the functional equivalent of the determination of a neutral and detached magistrate. This assumption ignores a major premise of the warrant requirement -- the importance of having a neutral and detached magistrate determine whether probable cause exists. See supra at 828-829. The majority's explanation that the scope of the warrantless automobile search will be "limited" to what a magistrate could authorize is thus inconsistent with our cases, which firmly establish that an on-the-spot [p834] determination of probable cause is never the same as a decision by a neutral and detached magistrate.
Our recent decisions in United States v. Chadwick,\ 433 U.S. 1 (1977), Arkansas v. Sanders, supra, and Robbins v. California, 453 U.S. 420 (1981), clearly affirm that movable containers are different from automobiles for Fourth Amendment purposes. In Chadwick, the Court drew a constitutional distinction between luggage and automobiles in terms of substantial differences in expectations of privacy. 433 U.S. at 12. Moreover, the Court held that the mobility of such containers does not justify dispensing with a warrant, since federal agents had seized the luggage and safely transferred it to their custody under their exclusive control. Sanders explicitly held that
the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment applies to personal luggage taken from an automobile to the same degree it applies to such luggage in other locations.
442 U.S. at 766. And Robbins reaffirmed the Sanders rationale as applied to wrapped packages found in the unlocked luggage compartment of a vehicle. 453 U.S. at 425. [n3]
In light of these considerations, I conclude that any movable container found within an automobile deserves precisely the same degree of Fourth Amendment warrant protection that it would deserve if found at a location outside the automobile. See Sanders, 442 U.S. at 763-765, and n. 13; Chadwick, supra, at 17, n. 1 (BRENNAN, J., concurring). Chadwick, as the majority notes, "reaffirmed the general principle that closed packages and containers may not be [p835] searched without a warrant." Ante at 812. Although there is no need to describe the exact contours of that protection in this dissenting opinion, it is clear enough that closed, opaque containers -- regardless of whether they are "worthy" or are always used to store personal items -- are ordinarily fully protected. Cf. Sanders, supra, at 764, n. 13. [n4]
Here, because respondent Ross had placed the evidence in question in a closed paper bag, the container could be seized, but not searched, without a warrant. No practical exigencies required the warrantless searches on the street or at the station: Ross had been arrested and was in custody when both searches occurred, and the police succeeded in transporting the bag to the station without inadvertently spilling its contents. [n5]
In announcing its new rule, the Court purports to rely on earlier automobile search cases, especially Carroll v. United States. The Court's approach, however, far from being "faithful to the interpretation of the Fourth Amendment that the Court has followed with substantial consistency throughout our history," ante at 824, is plainly contrary to the letter and the spirit of our prior automobile search cases. Moreover, the new rule produces anomalous and unacceptable consequences. [p836]
The majority's argument that its decision is supported by our decisions in Carroll and Chambers is misplaced. The Court in Carroll upheld a warrantless search of an automobile for contraband on the basis of the impracticability of securing a warrant in cases involving the transportation of contraband goods. The Court did not, however, suggest that obtaining a warrant for the search of an automobile is always impracticable. [n6]
In cases where the securing of a warrant is reasonably practicable, it must be used. . . . In cases where seizure is impossible except without warrant, the seizing officer acts unlawfully and at his peril unless he can show the court probable cause.
[n]either Carroll, supra, nor other cases in this Court require or suggest that in every conceivable circumstance the search of an auto even with probable cause may be made without the extra protection for privacy that a warrant affords.
Notwithstanding the reasoning of these cases, the majority argues that Carroll and Chambers support its decisions because integral compartments of a car are functionally equivalent to containers found within a car, and because the practical advantages to the police of the Carroll doctrine
would be largely nullified if the permissible scope of a warrantless search of an automobile did not include containers and packages found inside the vehicle.
Ante at 820. Neither of these arguments is persuasive. First, the Court's argument that allowing warrantless searches of certain integral compartments of the car in Carroll and Chambers, while protecting movable containers within the car, would be "illogical" and "absurd," ante at 818, ignores the reason why this Court has allowed warrantless searches of automobile compartments. Surely an integral compartment within a car is just as mobile, and presents the same practical problems of safekeeping, as the car itself. This cannot be said of movable containers located within the car. The fact that there may be a high expectation of privacy in both containers and compartments is irrelevant, since the privacy rationale is not, and cannot be, the justification for the warrantless search of compartments.
The Court's second argument, which focuses on the practical advantages to police of the Carroll doctrine, fares no better. The practical considerations which concerned the Carroll Court involved the difficulty of immobilizing a vehicle while a warrant must be obtained. The Court had no occasion to address whether containers present the same practical difficulties as the car itself or integral compartments of the car. They do not. See supra at 832. Carroll hardly suggested, as the Court implies, ante at 820, that a warrantless [p838] search is justified simply because it assists police in obtaining more evidence.
Although it can find no support for its rule in this Court's precedents or in the traditional justifications for the automobile exception, the majority offers another justification. In a footnote, the majority suggests that "practical considerations" militate against securing containers found during an automobile search and taking them to the magistrate. Ante at 821, n. 28. The Court confidently remarks:
[P]rohibiting police from opening immediately a container in which the object of the search is most likely to be found, and instead forcing them first to comb the entire vehicle, would actually exacerbate the intrusion on privacy interests. Moreover, until the container itself was opened, the police could never be certain that the contraband was not secreted in a yet undiscovered portion of the vehicle.
Ibid. The vehicle would have to be seized while a warrant was obtained, a requirement inconsistent with Carroll and Chambers. Ante at 821, n. 28.
This explanation is unpersuasive. As this Court explained in Sanders, and as the majority today implicitly concedes, the burden to police departments of seizing a package or personal luggage simply does not compare to the burden of seizing and safeguarding automobiles. Sanders, 442 U.S. at 765, n. 14; ante at 811, and n. 16. Other aspects of the Court's explanation are also implausible. The search will not always require a "combing" of the entire vehicle, since police may be looking for a particular item, and may discover it promptly. If, instead, they are looking more generally for evidence of a crime, the immediate opening of the container will not protect the defendant's privacy; whether or not it contains contraband, the police will continue to search for new evidence. Finally, the defendant, not the police, should be afforded the choice whether he prefers the immediate opening of his suitcase or other container to the delay incident to seeking a warrant. Cf. Sanders, supra, at 764, n. 12. The more reasonable [p839] presumption, if a presumption is to replace the defendant's consent, is surely that the immediate search of a closed container will be a greater invasion of the defendant's privacy interests than a mere temporary seizure of the container. [n8]
Finally, the majority's new rule is theoretically unsound, and will create anomalous and unwarranted results. These consequences are readily apparent from the Court's attempt to reconcile its new rule with the holdings of Chadwick and Sanders. [n9] The Court suggests that probable cause to search only a container does not justify a warrantless search of an automobile in which it is placed, absent reason to believe that the contents could be secreted elsewhere in the vehicle. This, the majority asserts, is an indication that the new rule is carefully limited to its justification, and is not inconsistent with Chadwick and Sanders. But why is such a container more private, less difficult for police to seize and store, or in any other relevant respect more properly subject to the warrant [p840] requirement, than a container that police discover in a probable cause search of an entire automobile? [n10] This rule plainly has peculiar and unworkable consequences: the Government
must show that the investigating officer knew enough, but not too much, that he had sufficient knowledge to establish probable cause, but insufficient knowledge to know exactly where the contraband was located.
210 U.S.App.D.C. 342, 384, 655 F.2d 1159, 1201 (1981) (en banc) (Wilkey, J., dissenting).
Alternatively, the majority may be suggesting that Chadwick and Sanders may be explained because the connection of the container to the vehicle was incidental in these two cases. That is, because police had preexisting probable cause to seize and search the containers, they were not entitled to wait until the item was placed in a vehicle to take advantage of the automobile exception. Cf. Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443 (1971); 2 W. LaFave, Search and Seizure 519-525 (1978). I wholeheartedly agree that police cannot employ a pretext to escape Fourth Amendment prohibitions, and cannot rely on an exigency that they could easily have avoided. This interpretation, however, might well be an exception that swallows up the majority's rule. In neither Chadwick nor Sanders did the Court suggest that the delay of the police was a pretext for taking advantage of the automobile exception. For all that appears, the Government may have had legitimate reasons for not searching as soon as they had probable cause. In any event, asking police to rely [p841] on such an uncertain line in distinguishing between legitimate and illegitimate searches for containers in automobiles hardly indicates that the majority's approach has brought clarification to this area of the law. Ante at 804; see Robbins, 453 U.S. at 435 (POWELL, J., concurring in judgment). [n11]
The Court today ignores the clear distinction that Chadwick established between movable containers and automobiles. It also rejects all of the relevant reasoning of Sanders [n12] and offers a substitute rationale that appears inconsistent with the result. See supra at 832. Sanders is therefore effectively overruled. And the Court unambiguously overrules "the disposition" of Robbins, ante at 824, though it gingerly avoids stating that it is overruling the case itself.
The only convincing explanation I discern for the majority's broad rule is expediency: it assists police in conducting [p842] automobile searches, ensuring that the private containers into which criminal suspects often place goods will no longer be a Fourth Amendment shield. See ante at 820. "When a legitimate search is under way," the Court instructs us,
nice distinctions between . . . glove compartments, upholstered seats, trunks, and wrapped packages . . . must give way to the interest in the prompt and efficient completion of the task at hand.
Ante at 821. No "nice distinctions" are necessary, however, to comprehend the well recognized differences between movable containers (which, even after today's decision, would be subject to the warrant requirement if located outside an automobile), and the automobile itself, together with its integral parts. Nor can I pass by the majority's glib assertion that the "prompt and efficient completion of the task at hand" is paramount to the Fourth Amendment interests of our citizens. I had thought it well established that "the mere fact that law enforcement may be made more efficient can never, by itself, justify disregard of the Fourth Amendment." Mincey v. Arizona, 437 U.S. at 393. [n13]
This case will have profound implications for the privacy of citizens traveling in automobiles, as the Court well understands.
For countless vehicles are stopped on highways and public streets every day, and our cases demonstrate that it is not uncommon for police officers to have probable cause to believe that contraband may be found in a stopped vehicle.
Ante at 803-804. A closed paper bag, a toolbox, a knapsack, a suitcase, and an attache case can alike be searched without the protection of the judgment of a neutral magistrate, based only on the rarely disturbed decision of a police officer that he has probable cause to search for contraband in the vehicle. [n14] The Court derives satisfaction from [p843] the fact that its rule does not exalt the rights of the wealthy over the rights of the poor. Ante at 822. A rule so broad that all citizens lose vital Fourth Amendment protection is no cause for celebration.
1. The Court confines its holding today to automobiles stopped on the highway which police have probable cause to believe contain contraband. I do not understand the Court to address the applicability of the automobile exception rule announced today to parked cars. Cf. Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443 (1971).
2. The fact that the police are able initially to remove the occupants from the car does not remove the justification for an immediate search. If police could not conduct an immediate search of a stopped automobile, they would often be left with the difficult task of deciding what to do with the occupants while a warrant is obtained. In the case of a parked automobile, by contrast, if the automobile is unoccupied, this problem is not presented. See, e.g., Coolidge v. New Hampshire, supra.
3. The plurality stated:
[Chadwick and Sanders] made clear, if it was not clear before, that a closed piece of luggage found in a lawfully searched car is constitutionally protected to the same extent as are closed pieces of luggage found anywhere else.
Robbins v. California, 453 U.S. at 425.
4. This rule may present some linedrawing problems, but no greater than those presented when a movable container is in the arms of a citizen walking down the street. There is no justification for relying on marginal difficulties of definition to reject a warrant requirement in one situation but not the other.
5. The Government argues that less secure containers such as paper bags can easily spill their contents; thus, no privacy interest of the defendant is protected if police are required to seize the container and bring it to the station. Whatever the force of this argument in other contexts, here police succeeded in reclosing the bag after the initial search and transporting it to the station without incident.
6. The Court in Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132 (1925), seems to have assumed that the police could not arrest the occupants of the automobile, since the offense was a misdemeanor and was not deemed to have been committed in the officers' presence. See 2 W. LaFave, Search and Seizure 511 (1978). Accordingly, police were faced with an exigency often not encountered today in searches of stopped automobiles: in order to seize the car pending the securing of a warrant, they would have to leave the occupants stranded.
7. In Carroll, of course, no movable container was searched. Although in other early cases, containers may, in fact, have been searched, see ante at 818-819, the parties did not litigate in this Court the question whether containers deserve separate protection.
The Court's suggestion that the absence of such an argument "illuminates the profession's understanding of the scope of the search permitted under Carroll," ante at 819, is an unusual approach to constitutional interpretation. I would hesitate to rely upon the "profession's understanding" of the Fourteenth Amendment or of Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), in the early part of this century as justification for not granting Negroes constitutional protection. See Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954). Moreover, for a number of reasons, including the broad scope of the permitted search incident to arrest prior to Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752 (1969), and the uncertain meaning of a "search" prior to Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967), the profession formerly advanced different arguments against automobile searches than it advances today.
8. Seizures of automobiles can be distinguished because of the greater interest of defendants in continuing possession of their means of transportation; in the case of automobiles, a seizure is more likely to be a greater intrusion than an immediate search. See Chambers v. Maroney, 399 U.S. 42, 51-52 (1970).
9. Both cases would appear to fall within the majority's new rule. In United States v. Chadwick, 433 U.S. 1 (1977), federal agents had probable cause to search a footlocker. Although the footlocker had been placed in the trunk of a car and the occupants were about to depart, the Court refused to rely on the automobile exception to uphold the search. (It is true that the United States did not argue in this Court that the search was justified pursuant to that exception, but the theory was hardly so novel that this Court could not have responsibly relied upon it.) In Arkansas v. Sanders, 442 U.S. 753 (1979), too, the suitcase was mobile, and police had probable cause to search it; it was carried in an automobile for several blocks before the automobile was stopped and the suitcase was seized and searched. Again, however, this Court invalidated the search.
10. In a footnote, the Court appears to suggest a more pragmatic rationale for distinguishing Chadwick and Sanders -- that no practical problems comparable to those engendered by a general search of a vehicle would arise if the official suspicion is confined to a particular piece of luggage. Ante at 816, n. 21. This suggestion is illogical. A general search might disclose only a single item worth searching; conversely, preexisting suspicion might attach to a number of items later placed in a car. Surely the protection of the warrant requirement cannot depend on a numerical count of the items subject to search.
11. Unless one of these alternative explanations is adopted, the Court's attempt to distinguish the holdings in Chadwick and Sanders is not only unpersuasive, but appears to contradict the Court's own theory. The Court suggests that, in each case, the connection of the container to the vehicle was simply coincidental, and notes that the police did not have probable cause to search the entire vehicle. But the police assuredly did have probable cause to search the vehicle for the container. The Court states that the scope of the permitted warrantless search is determined only by what a magistrate could authorize. Ante at 823. Once police found that container, according to the Court's own rule, they should have been entitled to search at least the container without a warrant. There was probable cause to search, and the car was mobile in each case.
12. The Court suggests that it rejects "some of the reasoning in Sanders." Ante at 824. But the Court in Sanders unambiguously stated:
[W]e hold that the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment applies to personal luggage taken from an automobile to the same degree it applies to such luggage in other locations.
442 U.S. at 766. The Court today instead adopts the reasoning of the opinion of THE CHIEF JUSTICE, joined by JUSTICE STEVENS, who refused to join the majority opinion because of the breadth of it. rationale. Ibid.
13. Of course, efficiency and promptness can never be substituted for due process and adherence to the Constitution. Is not a dictatorship the most "efficient" form of government?
14. The Court purports to restrict its rule to areas that the police have probable cause to search, as "defined by the object of the search and the places in which there is probable cause to believe that it may be found." Ante at 824. I agree, of course, that the probable cause component of the automobile exception must be strictly construed. I fear, however, that the restriction that the Court emphasizes may have little practical value. See 210 U.S.App.D.C. 342, 351, n. 21, 655 F.2d 1159, 1168, n. 21 (1981) (en banc). If police open a container within a car and find contraband, they may acquire probable cause to believe that other portions of the car, and other containers within it, will contain contraband. In practice, the Court's rule may amount to a wholesale authorization for police to search any car from top to bottom when they have suspicion, whether localized or general, that it contains contraband.