SIBRON v. NEW YORK

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
63
Appellee 
New York
Appellant 
Sibron
Consolidation 
Peters v. New York, No. 74
Opinion 
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the appellee)
(Argued the cause for the District Attorney of New York County, as amicus curiae)
(Argued the cause for the appellant)
(Argued the cause for the appellant)
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Facts of the Case 

After following Nelson Sibron for several hours, and observing him talking with several narcotics addicts, NYC police officer Anthony Martinez stopped Sibron and questioned him. When Martinez said: "You know what I am after," Sibron began reaching into his pocket. Simultaneously, Martinez thrust his hand into Sibron's pocket and pulled out several heroin envelopes. Following his arrest for drug trafficking, Sibron sought to suppress the heroin evidence as the product of an unconstitutional stop-and-frisk search. When the Criminal Court of New York City denied his motion, Sibron appealed but suffered adverse rulings in the New York State appellate courts. On appeal, the US Supreme Court granted certiorari and heard Sibron's case together with a related case, Peters v. New York. John Peters appealed his arrest and conviction for intent to commit burglary after a stop-and-frisk search of his person revealed burglary tools.

Question 

Do the broad search powers conferred on New York State police officers under the State's "stop-and-frisk" law violate the Fourth Amendment's search and seizure protections?

Conclusion 
Decision: 8 votes for Sibron, 1 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 4: Fourth Amendment

In an 8-to-1 decision, the Court began by noting that although states may grant police officers great latitude in making arrests, all search and seizures are subject to constitutional limitations. In Sibron's case, the Court noted that officer Martinez never actually heard any of the conversations between Sibron and the narcotics addicts. As such, the inference that Sibron engaged in narcotics trafficking merely because he spoke with drug addicts did not constitute probably cause for a warrantless search. Moreover, Martinez's actions could not be justified as a self-protective search for weapons since he admitted that he had no reason to suspect Sibron of concealment. With respect to Peters, the Court upheld his conviction since it flowed from a lawful stop-and-frisk search. The arresting officer observed Peters prowling furtively in a building hallway and had to chase him down before capture. Such suspicious conduct justified the ensuing stop-and-frisk search of Peter's person that, in turn, revealed the incriminating burglar tools.

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SIBRON v. NEW YORK. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 21 October 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1967/1967_63>.
SIBRON v. NEW YORK, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1967/1967_63 (last visited October 21, 2014).
"SIBRON v. NEW YORK," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed October 21, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1967/1967_63.