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Maryland v. Macon


An undercover officer entered an adult bookstore and purchased two magazines with a marked $50 bill from the defendant. The officer left the store and met with two other officers waiting outside. After reviewing the magazines, they determined that the material was obscene and went into the store. The officers arrested the defendant and retrieved the $50 bill from the register.


Whether the officers searched for and “seized” the two magazines under the definition of the Fourth Amendment?


No. The defendant does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in items offered for public sale nor a possessory interest in items sold.


The Court held that “[A]bsent some action taken by government agents that can properly be classified as a “search” or a “seizure,” the Fourth Amendment rules designed to safeguard First Amendment freedoms do not apply.” The defendant does not have an expectation of privacy in areas where the public has been invited to peruse wares for sale. Therefore, the officer’s entry into the store and examining materials for sale cannot be considered a “search.”

Nor did the Court consider the purchase of the magazines a seizure (defined as a “meaningful interference with an individual’s possessory interests” in United States v. Jacobsen). The defendant “voluntarily transferred any possessory interest he may have had in the magazines to the purchaser upon the receipt of the funds.” Therefore, these actions cannot be deemed a Fourth Amendment seizure.


472 U.S. 463, 105 S. Ct. 2778 (1985)

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