BOND v. UNITED STATES

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
98-9349
Petitioner 
Bond
Respondent 
United States
Advocates
(San Antonio, Texas, argued the cause for the petitioner)
(Department of Justice, argued the cause for the respondent)
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Facts of the Case 

While checking the immigration status of passengers on a bus in Texas, Border Patrol Agent Cesar Cantu squeezed the soft luggage which passengers had placed in the overhead storage space. When Agent Cantu squeezed a canvas bag above Steven Dewayne Bond, Agent Cantu noticed that it contained a "brick-like" object. After Bond admitted owning the bag and consented to its search, Agent Cantu discovered a "brick" of methamphetamine. Bond was indicted on federal drug charges. Bond moved to suppress the drugs, arguing that the agent conducted an illegal search of his bag, when squeezing it, in alleged violation of the Federal Constitution's Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. The District Court denied the motion and subsequently found Bond guilty. On appeal, Bond conceded that other passengers had access to his bag, but contended that Agent Cantu manipulated the bag (by squeezing)in a way that other passengers would not, thus constituting an unreasonable search. In affirming the denial of the motion, the Court of Appeals held that Agent Cantu's manipulation of the bag was not a search under the Fourth Amendment.

Question 

Does a law enforcement officer's physical manipulation of a bus passenger's carry-on luggage violate the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches?

Conclusion 
Decision: 7 votes for Bond, 2 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 4: Fourth Amendment

Yes. In a 7-2 opinion delivered by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, the Court held that "Agent Cantu's physical manipulation of petitioner's carry-on bag violated the Fourth Amendment's proscription against unreasonable searches." The Court concluded that Bond "possessed a privacy interest in his bag," and that such an expectation of privacy is reasonable. "Physically invasive inspection is simply more intrusive than purely visual inspection," Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote for the Court, a bus passenger "does not expect that other passengers or bus employees will, as a matter of course, feel the bag in an exploratory manner." Justice Stephen G. Breyer, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, dissented, seeing no "reasonable expectation" that strangers would not manipulate luggage in a bus.

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BOND v. UNITED STATES. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 10 September 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1999/1999_98_9349>.
BOND v. UNITED STATES, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1999/1999_98_9349 (last visited September 10, 2014).
"BOND v. UNITED STATES," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed September 10, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1999/1999_98_9349.