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Florida v. Wells

495 U.S. 1 (1990)

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Florida v. Wells

United States Supreme Court

495 U.S. 1 (1990)

Facts

Wells (defendant) was stopped by a Florida Highway Patrol trooper for speeding. The officer smelled alcohol on Wells’s breath and arrested him for driving under the influence. Wells was brought to the police station for a breathalyzer test, and Wells’s car was impounded. The officer obtained Wells’s permission to open the car’s trunk at the impound facility. During an inventory search, cash and marijuana-cigarette butts were found in the car, and a locked suitcase was found in the trunk. The Florida Highway Patrol did not have a policy directing whether closed containers found during inventory searches could be opened. The officer directed the impound-facility employees to open the suitcase, and a large amount of marijuana was found inside. Wells was charged with possession of a controlled substance. Wells moved to suppress the marijuana that was found in the suitcase as being seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The trial court denied Wells’s motion. Wells pleaded nolo contendere but reserved his right to appeal. On Wells’s appeal, the court of appeal held that the trial court had erred in refusing to suppress the evidence found in the suitcase. The Supreme Court of Florida affirmed the court of appeal’s decision, and the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Rehnquist, C.J.)

Concurrence (Blackmun, J.)

Concurrence (Brennan, J.)

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