John Paul Stevens on Drugs

Supreme Court Justice (nominated by Pres. Ford 1975)


No tactile inspection by police for drugs.

Justice Stevens joined the Court's decision on BOND v. UNITED STATES on Apr 17, 2000:

A Texas Border Patrol Agent boarded a bus to check the immigration status of its passengers. He squeezed a canvas bag above Mr. Bond’s seat and noticed that it contained a “brick-like” object. After petitioner admitted owning the bag and consented to its search, the Agent discovered a “brick” of methamphetamine.


(Rehnquist, joined by Stevens, O’Connor, Kennedy, Souter, Thomas, and Ginsburg)
The Agent physical manipulation of petitioner’s carry-on bag violated the Fourth Amendment’s proscription against unreasonable searches. The Government’s assertion that by exposing his bag to the public, petitioner lost a reasonable expectation that his bag would not be physically manipulated is rejected. [Previous precedents allowing searches] involved only visual, as opposed to tactile, observation. Physically invasive inspection is simply more intrusive than purely visual inspection.


(Breyer, joined by Scalia)
Does a traveler who places a soft-sided bag in the shared overhead storage compartment of a bus have a “reasonable expectation” that strangers will not push, pull, prod, squeeze, or otherwise manipulate his luggage? I believe that he does not.

The Fourth Amendment protects against government intrusion that upsets an “actual (subjective) expectation of privacy” that is objectively “reasonable.” But an individual cannot reasonably expect privacy in respect to objects or activities that he “knowingly exposes to the public.” Nor can I accept the majority’s effort to distinguish “tactile” from “visual” interventions. Whether tactile manipulation (say, of the exterior of luggage) is more intrusive or less intrusive than visual observation (say, through a lighted window) necessarily depends on the particular circumstances, [which would] lead to a constitutional jurisprudence of “squeezes,” thereby complicating further already complex Fourth Amendment law. For these reasons, I dissent.

Source: Supreme Court case 98-9349 argued on Feb 29, 2000

No roadblocks with drug-sniffing dogs.

Justice Stevens joined the Court's decision on CITY OF INDIANAPOLIS v. EDMOND on Nov 28, 2000:

Indianapolis operates vehicle checkpoints on its roads in an effort to interdict unlawful drugs. Mr. Edmond was stopped at such a checkpoint, and filed suit, claiming that the roadblocks violated the Fourth Amendment’s rule that a search or seizure is unreasonable absent individualized suspicion of wrongdoing.


(O’Connor, joined by Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer, & Stevens)
We previously held that brief, suspicionless seizures at highway checkpoints for the purposes of combating drunk driving and intercepting illegal immigrants were constitutional. We now consider [applying that to] illegal narcotics. Because the checkpoint program’s primary purpose is indistinguishable from the general interest in crime control, the checkpoints violate the Fourth Amendment.


(Rehnquist, joined by Scalia & Thomas)
The State’s use of a drug-sniffing dog, according to the Court’s holding, annuls what is otherwise plainly constitutional under our Fourth Amendment jurisprudence: brief, standardized, discretionless, roadblock seizures of automobiles, seizures which effectively serve a weighty state interest with only minimal intrusion on the privacy of their occupants. Because these seizures serve the State’s accepted and significant interests of preventing drunken driving and checking for driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations, and because there is nothing in the record to indicate that the addition of the dog sniff lengthens these otherwise legitimate seizures, I dissent.

Additional dissent:

I am not convinced [the original drunk-driving & immigration roadblock cases] were correctly decided. I rather doubt that the Framers would have considered “reasonable” a program of indiscriminate stops of individuals not suspected of wrongdoing. But Mr. Edmond did not advocate the overruling [of the original cases, so I join in the dissent].
Source: Supreme Court case 99-1030 argued on Oct 3, 2000

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Other Justices on Drugs: John Paul Stevens on other issues:
Samuel Alito(since 2006)
Stephen Breyer(since 1994)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg(since 1993)
Elena Kagan(since 2010)
Anthony Kennedy(since 1988)
John Roberts(since 2005)
Sonia Sotomayor(since 2009)
Clarence Thomas(since 1991)

Former Justices:
Merrick Garland(nominated 2016)
Antonin Scalia(1986-2016)
John Paul Stevens(1975-2010)
David Souter(1990-2009)
Sandra Day O'Connor(1981-2006)
William Rehnquist(1975-2005)

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Page last updated: Feb 01, 2020