or use our live chat


Customer Service



United States v. Chadwick


Railroad officials in San Diego observed Machado and Leary load a footlocker onto a train bound for Boston. Their suspicions were aroused when they noticed that the trunk was unusually heavy for its size, and that it was leaking talcum powder, a substance often used to mask the odor of marijuana or hashish. Machado fit a drug- courier profile. The railroad officials notified DEA in San Diego who in turn notified DEA in Boston.

In Boston, DEA agents did not have a search warrant nor an arrest warrant, but they did have a trained drug dog. The agents observed Machado and Leary as they claimed their baggage and the footlocker. The agents released the drug dog near the footlocker and he covertly alerted to the presence of a controlled substance. The defendant joined Machado and Leary and together they lifted the 200-pound footlocker into the trunk of a car. At that point, the officers arrested all three. A search incident to the arrests produced the keys to the footlocker. All three were removed from the scene. Agents followed with the defendant’s car and the footlocker. Ninety minutes later the agents opened the footlocker, discovering a large amount of marijuana.


Whether the defendant can expect privacy in his trunk?


Yes. The defendant’s actions indicated he wanted to preserve his privacy in the trunk.


By placing personal effects inside a double- locked footlocker, defendants manifested an expectation of privacy in the footlocker. Since the defendants’ principle privacy interest in the locked footlocker was not in the container itself, but in its contents, seizure of the locker did not diminish their legitimate expectation that its contents would remain private. A footlocker is not open to public view and not subject to regular inspections. By placing personal effects inside a double-locked footlocker, the defendant manifested an expectation that the contents would remain free from public examination.

NOTE: This case was decided before California v. Acevedo. Today, if the officers could establish probable cause that the locker contained contraband, they could have opened it pursuant to the mobile conveyance doctrine.


433 U.S. 1, 97 S. Ct. 2476 (1977)

Subscribe to Updates