MASSACHUSETTS v. PODGURSKI , 459 U.S. 1222 (1983)

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U.S. Supreme Court

MASSACHUSETTS v. PODGURSKI , 459 U.S. 1222 (1983)

75 L.Ed.2d 464 459 U.S. 1222

Ronald PODGURSKI and Edward J. Collins, III
No. 82-319

Supreme Court of the United States

February 22, 1983

On petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.

The petition for writ of certiorari is denied.


In my view, only the finite limitations of the Court's time preclude our granting review of this case. I would grant certiorari and summarily reverse the judgment of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.

Justice REHNQUIST, dissenting from denial of certiorari.

This case began when the manager of a clothing store in Canton Center, Massachusetts, observed an unfamiliar blue van in the

Page 459 U.S. 1222, 1223

rear parking lot, which the store owned. From his vantage point about 15 feet away, the manager saw two men in the van cutting up a suspicious looking substance. He reported his observation to the police. The Canton Police Department dispatched Officer Brown to "check '[t]wo men inside a van acting suspicious.' " 386 Mass. 385, 386, 436 N.E.2d 150 (1982). When the officer approached within about 10 feet of the van, he noticed two people in the rear of the van and that the sliding door on the passenger side stood approximately 18-inches ajar. Officer Brown then stuck his head through the door. He observed respondents Podgurski and Collins cutting hashish. Respondents were arrested and the hashish was seized.

Respondents were charged with possession of hashish. The trial court granted their motion to suppress the evidence of the hashish and the Commonwealth appealed. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirmed. It held that Officer Brown had searched the van before viewing the hashish, and that respondents had a legitimate expectation of privacy in the van, even though the door was open. The court apparently thought that Officer Brown should have tried "to question or communicate with" petitioners before putting his head inside the door. Id., at 390, 436 N.E.2d 150. It held that Officer Brown had not conducted a "lawful threshold inquiry" under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968), because he was conducting a "search." Ibid. It also thought that there would be no constitutional problem if Officer Brown had looked through the windshield or one of the windows, or had kept his head outside the open door. Id., 386 Mass. at 388, 436 N.E.2d 150.

I am not persuaded that the Supreme Judicial Court misconstrued this Court's decisions in finding that respondents had a legitimate expectation of privacy. However, I am concerned that it took too narrow a view of our cases permitting police officers to make brief investigative stops and searches. [459 U.S. 1222, 1224]

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