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Case Basics
Docket No. 
United States
(By invitation of the Court as amicus curiae, argued the cause in support of the judgment below)
(Argued the cause on behalf of the United States)
(Argued the cause for the petitioners)
Facts of the Case 

Saul Ornelas and Ismael Ornelas-Ledesma were arrested in Wisconsin after suspicious activity led to the discovery of cocaine in the defendants' car. In a motion to suppress the evidence, the defendants alleged that their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated in their detainment and in the police search of the car. The District Court denied the motion and the defendants pleaded guilty. The Court of Appeals ultimately affirmed the District Court but for different reasons.


Should courts use a de novo standard in determining if a police search conducted without a warrant was based on reasonable suspicion and probable cause?

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

Yes. In an 8-1 decision, announced by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, the Court held "[t]he ultimate questions of reasonable suspicion and probable cause to make a warrantless search should be reviewed de novo." The principle details in such a review should be an analysis of events leading up to the search and the objective review of the search.

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ORNELAS v. UNITED STATES. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1995/1995_95_5257>.
ORNELAS v. UNITED STATES, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1995/1995_95_5257 (last visited August 26, 2015).
"ORNELAS v. UNITED STATES," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 26, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1995/1995_95_5257.