WYOMING v. HOUGHTON

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
98-184
Petitioner 
Wyoming
Respondent 
Houghton
Advocates
(Department of Justice, for the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the petitioner)
(Argued the cause for the petitioner)
(Argued the cause for the respondent)
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Facts of the Case 

After pulling Sandra Haughton's friend over during a routine traffic stop, a Wyoming Highway Patrol officer noticed a needle in the driver's shirt pocket. Upon learning that the needle was used for drugs, the officer searched the car and Haughton's purse, where he found more drug paraphernalia. Haughton challenged her subsequent arrest on drug charges, alleging that the officer's search of her purse was unconstitutional. On appeal from an adverse appeals court ruling, overturning a favorable trial court decision, the Supreme Court granted Wyoming certiorari.

Question 

May police officers, with probable cause to search a car, inspect personal items belonging to its passengers without violating the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches?

Conclusion 
Decision: 6 votes for Wyoming, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 4: Fourth Amendment

Yes. In a 6-to-3 decision the Court held that so long as there is probable cause to search a stopped vehicle, all subsequent searches of its contents are legal as well. The Court added that such searches are especially warranted if aimed at looking into objects or personal belongings capable of concealing items that are the object of the search.

Cite this Page
WYOMING v. HOUGHTON. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 22 September 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1998/1998_98_184>.
WYOMING v. HOUGHTON, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1998/1998_98_184 (last visited September 22, 2014).
"WYOMING v. HOUGHTON," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed September 22, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1998/1998_98_184.