Arizona v. Hicks
Decided on Mar. 3, 1987; 480 US 321


I. ISSUES II. CASE SUMMARY III. AMICI CURIAE IV. DECISION V. WIN OR LOSS?
I. ISSUES:

A. Issues Discussed: Police search

B. Legal Question Presented:

May the police warrantless search of an item in plain view, during their lawful search of a private area, be considered reasonable when the police have less than probable cause to believe that the item in question is evidence of a crime or is contraband?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

 "After a bullet had been fired through the floor of defendant's apartment, striking and injuring a man in the apartment below, police entered defendant's apartment.

One of the officers noticed expensive stereo equipment, which seemed out of place in the otherwise squalid apartment. The officer recorded the equipment's serial numbers, moving some of the equipment to do so. Upon reporting the serial numbers to police headquarters, the officer was advised that some of the equipment had been stolen in an armed robbery.

The defendant was indicted in an Arizona state court for that armed robbery. The trial court granted defendant motion to suppress the seized equipment as evidence, and the Court of Appeals of Arizona affirmed, viewing the obtaining of the serial numbers as an additional search unrelated to the exigency which validated the entry."

On certiorari, the US Supreme Court affirmed.

B. Counsel of Record:
ACLU Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Opposing Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Unavailable Unavailable
C. The Arguments:
ACLU Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Opposing Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Unavailable Unavailable
III. AMICI CURIAE:
ACLU Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Opposing Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
William J. Taylor, George Kannar, and Burt Neuborne filed a brief for the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation as amicus curiae urging affirmance.

John W. Rood III, by appointment of the Court, argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief was James H. Kemper.

David Crump, Daniel B. Hales, William C. Summers, Jack E. Yelverton, Fred E. Inbau, Wayne W. Schmidt, and James P. Manak filed a brief for Americans for Effective Law Enforcement, Inc., et al. as amici curiae urging reversal.

Linda A. Akers, Assistant Attorney General of Arizona, argued the cause for petitioner. With her on the briefs were Robert K. Corbin, Attorney General, Steven A. LaMar, Assistant Attorney General, and Steven J. Twist, Chief Assistant Attorney General.

IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

"Merely inspecting those parts of the turntable that came into view during the search would not have constituted an independent search, because it would have produced no additional invasion of respondent's privacy interest.

It is well established that under certain circumstances, the police may seize evidence in plain view without a warrant. However, the State has conceded that Officer Nelson had only a 'reasonable suspicion,' by which it means something less than probable cause. We now hold that probable cause is required in order to invoke the 'plain view' doctrine.

The distinction between looking at a suspicious object in plain view and moving it even a few inches, is much more than trivial for purposes of the Fourth Amendment. A search is a search, even if it happens to disclose nothing but the bottom of a turntable."

The Court of Appeals of Arizona's Judgment was affirmed.

Justice Vote: 6 Pro vs. 3 Con

  • Scalia, A. Pro (Wrote majority opinion)
  • Brennan, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • White, B. Pro (Joined majority opinion, Wrote concurring opinion)
  • Marshall, T. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Blackmun, H. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Stevens, J.P. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Powell, L. Con (Wrote dissenting opinion)
  • O'Connor, S.D. Con (Wrote dissenting opinion)
  • Rehnquist, W. Con (Joined dissenting opinion)
V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

The ACLU, as amicus curiae, urged affirmance of the Court of Appeals of Arizona's Judgment; the Supreme Court affirmed in a 6-3 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent win.