The defendant paid cash for a one-way airline ticket to New York City at Miami International Airport under an assumed name, which was legal at the time. The defendant also checked his two suitcases bearing identification tags with the same assumed name. Two officers had previously observed him and believed that his characteristics fit a “drug courier profile.” They approached him. Upon request the defendant produced his airline ticket and driver’s license, which bore his correct name. The defendant explained that a friend had made the ticket reservations in the assumed name. The officers told the defendant that they were narcotics investigators and that they had reason to suspect him of transporting narcotics. Without returning his ticket or driver’s license, the officers asked him to accompany them to a small room about forty feet away. Without the defendant’s consent, one of the officers retrieved his luggage and brought it to the room. Although he did not orally consent to a search of the luggage, the defendant produced a key and unlocked a suitcase in which marijuana was found.
1. Whether the seizure of the defendant was unreasonable, tainting his consent?
2. Whether the defendant’s consent was validly granted.
1. Yes. The officers exceeded the scope of their stop, turning it into an arrest without probable cause.
2. No. Consent granted during an illegal seizure is typically the result of government coercion.
Investigative detentions (“stops”) must be temporary and last no longer than is necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop. Investigative methods employed should be the least intrusive means reasonably available to verify or dispel reasonable suspicion in a quickest time possible. Officers did not do that here as they failed to return his ticket and license. They did not have probable cause to either arrest the defendant or search his suitcases. Finally, consent granted during an illegal seizure will typically be held to be invalid as the result of government coercion.
460 U.S. 491, 103 S. Ct. 1319 (1983)