RAWLINGS V. KENTUCKY, 448 U. S. 98 (1980)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Rawlings v. Kentucky, 448 U.S. 98 (1980)

Rawlings v. Kentucky

No. 79-5146

Argued March 26, 1980

Decided June 25, 1980

448 U.S. 98


When police officers, armed with a warrant to arrest one Marquess, arrived at his house, another resident of the house and four visitors, including petitioner, were there. While searching the house unsuccessfully for Marquess, several officers smelled marihuana smoke and saw marihuana seeds. Two of the officers left to obtain a warrant to search the house, and the other officers detained the occupants, allowing them to leave only if they consented to a body search. About 45 minutes later, the officers returned with the search warrant; the warrant was read to the remaining occupants, including petitioner, and they were also given Miranda warnings; and one Cox, an occupant, was ordered to empty her purse, which contained drugs that were controlled substances under Kentucky law. Cox told petitioner, who was standing nearby in response to an officer's command, "to take what was his," and petitioner immediately claimed ownership of the drugs. At that time, an officer searched petitioner, finding $ 4,500 in cash and a knife, and petitioner was then formally arrested. Petitioner was indicted for possessing with intent to sell the controlled substances recovered from Cox's purse, and the Kentucky trial court denied petitioner's motion to suppress, as fruits of an illegal detention and illegal searches, the drugs, the money, and the statements made by him when the police discovered the drugs. Petitioner's conviction was affirmed by the Kentucky Court of Appeals, and the Kentucky Supreme Court, in turn affirmed, holding that petitioner had no "standing" to contest the search of Cox's purse because he had no legitimate or reasonable expectation of freedom from governmental intrusion into the purse, and that the search uncovering the money in petitioner's pocket was justifiable as incident to a lawful arrest based on probable cause.


1. The conclusion that petitioner did not sustain his burden of proving that he had a legitimate expectation of privacy in Cox's purse so as to allow him to challenge the validity of the search of the purse is supported by the record, which includes petitioner's admission at the suppression hearing that he did not believe that the purse would be free from governmental intrusion. Nor was petitioner entitled to challenge

Page 448 U. S. 99

the search, regardless of his expectation of privacy, merely because he claimed ownership of the drugs in the purse. While petitioner's ownership of the drugs is one fact to be considered, "arcane" concepts of property law do not control the ability to claim the protections of the Fourth Amendment. Cf. Rakas v. Illinois, 439 U. S. 128. Pp. 448 U. S. 104-106.

2. Under the totality of circumstances present (the giving of Miranda warnings, the short lapse of time between petitioner's detention and his admissions being outweighed by the "congenial atmosphere" in the house during this interval, his admissions being apparently spontaneous reactions to the discovery of the drugs in Cox's purse, the police conduct not appearing to rise to the level of conscious or flagrant misconduct requiring prophylactic exclusion of petitioner's admissions, and petitioner not having argued that his admissions were anything other than voluntary), Kentucky carried its burden of showing that petitioner's statements to the police admitting his ownership of the drugs were acts of free will unaffected by any illegality in his detention, assuming, arguendo, that the police violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments by detaining petitioner and his companions in the house while they obtained a search warrant. Cf. Brown v. Illinois, 422 U. S. 590. Pp. 448 U. S. 106-110.

3. The search of petitioner's person that uncovered the money and the knife was valid as incident to his formal arrest. Once he admitted ownership of the drugs found in Cox's purse, the police had probable cause to arrest him, and where the arrest followed quickly after the search of petitioner's person it is not important that the search preceded the arrest, rather than vice versa. Pp. 448 U. S. 110-111.

581 S.W.2d 348, affirmed.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and BLACKMUN, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, and in Parts I and II-A of which STEWART and WHITE, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 448 U. S. 111. WHITE, J., filed an opinion concurring in part, in which STEWARTJ J., joined, post, p. 448 U. S. 113. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 448 U. S. 114.

Page 448 U. S. 100

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