Schneckloth v. Bustamonte

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Schneckloth v. Bustamonte
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued October 10, 1972
Decided May 29, 1973
Full case name Merle R. SCHNECKLOTH, Superintendent, California Conservation Center, Petitioner v. Robert Clyde BUSTAMONTE
Citations 412 U.S. 218 (more)
93 S.Ct. 2041
Argument Oral argument
Holding
Consent searches are constitutional, and that the government must show that consent existed. However, a defendant, under the Fifth Amendment, need not necessarily know of his right to object to a consent search. This differentiates the case from Miranda v. Arizona, where the Court held that a defendant must know of his/her rights against self-incrimination in the course of an interrogation.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Warren E. Burger
Associate Justices
William O. Douglas · William J. Brennan Jr.
Potter Stewart · Byron White
Thurgood Marshall · Harry Blackmun
Lewis F. Powell Jr. · William Rehnquist
Case opinions
Plurality Stewart, joined by Burger, White, Rehnquist
Concurrence Blackmun
Concurrence Powell, joined by Burger, Rehnquist
Dissent Douglas
Dissent Brennan
Dissent Marshall
Laws applied
United States Constitution, Amendment IV

Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218 (1973), was a U.S. Supreme Court case in which the high court ruled that in a case involving a consent search, while knowledge of a right to refuse consent is a factor to be taken into account, the state does not need to prove that the one who is giving permission to search knows that he has a right to withhold his consent under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Background[edit]

While on routine patrol in Sunnyvale, California, at approximately 2:40 in the morning, Police Officer James Rand stopped an automobile when he observed that one headlight and its license plate light were burned out. Six men were in the vehicle. Joe Alcala and the respondent, Robert Bustamonte, were in the front seat with Joe Gonzales, the driver. Three older men were seated in the rear. When, in response to the policeman's question, Gonzales could not produce a driver's license, Officer Rand asked if any of the other five had any evidence of identification. Only Alcala produced a license, and he explained that the car was his brother's. After the six occupants had stepped out of the car at the officer's request, and after two additional policemen had arrived, Officer Rand asked Alcala if he could search the car. Alcala replied, "Sure, go ahead." Prior to the search, no one was threatened with arrest, and, according to Officer Rand's uncontradicted testimony, it "was all very congenial at this time." Gonzales testified that Alcala actually helped in the search of the car by opening the trunk and glove compartment. In Gonzales' words:

"[T]he police officer asked Joe [Alcala], he goes, 'Does the trunk open?' And Joe said, 'Yes.' He went to the car and got the keys and opened up the trunk."

Wadded up under the left rear seat, the police officers found three checks that had previously been stolen from a car wash. There checks were later linked to Bustamonte (defendant), one of the six passengers riding in the car. The trial judge denied Bustamonte’s motion to suppress, and the checks in question were admitted in evidence at Bustamonte's trial. [1]

Holding[edit]

The court held that consent searches are constitutional, and that the government must show that consent existed. However, a defendant under the Fifth Amendment need not necessarily know of his right to object to a consent search. This differentiates the case from Miranda v. Arizona, where the Court held that a defendant must know of his/her rights against self-incrimination in the course of an interrogation.

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