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Case Basics
Docket No. 
United States
(Argued the cause for the petitioner)
(Argued the cause for the respondents)
Facts of the Case 

Christopher Drayton and Clifton Brown were traveling on a Greyhound bus. In Tallahassee, Florida, police officers boarded the bus as part of a routine interdiction effort. One of the officers worked his way from back to front, speaking with individual passengers as he went. The officer did not inform the passengers of their right to refuse to cooperate. As the officer approached Drayton and Brown, he identified himself, declared that the police were looking for drugs and weapons, and asked if the two had any bags. Subsequently, the officer asked Brown whether he minded if he checked his person. Brown agreed and a pat-down revealed hard objects similar to drug packages in both thigh areas. When Drayton agreed, a pat-down revealed similar objects. Both were arrested. A further search revealed that Drayton and Brown had taped cocaine to their legs. Charged with federal drug crimes, Drayton and Brown moved to suppress the cocaine on the ground that their consent to the pat-down searches was invalid. In denying the motions, the District Court determined that the police conduct was not coercive and Drayton and Brown's consent to the search was voluntary. In reversing, the Court of Appeals noted that bus passengers do not feel free to disregard officers' requests to search absent some positive indication that consent may be refused.


Must police officers, while searching buses at random to ask questions and to request passengers' consent to searches, advise passengers of their right not to cooperate?

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

No. In a 6-3 opinion delivered by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the Court held that the Fourth Amendment does not require police officers to advise bus passengers of their right not to cooperate and to refuse consent to searches. The Court reasoned that, although the officer did not inform the defendants of their right to refuse the search, he did request permission to search and gave no indication consent was required. Moreover, the Court noted, the totality of the circumstances indicated that the consent was voluntary. Justice David H. Souter, with whom Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined, dissented. "The issue we took to review is whether the police's examination of the bus passengers ... amounted to a suspicionless seizure under the Fourth Amendment. If it did, any consent to search was plainly invalid as a product of the illegal seizure," argued Justice Souter.

Cite this Page
UNITED STATES v. DRAYTON. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 29 July 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2001/2001_01_631>.
UNITED STATES v. DRAYTON, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2001/2001_01_631 (last visited July 29, 2015).
"UNITED STATES v. DRAYTON," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed July 29, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2001/2001_01_631.