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United States v. Mendenhall

United States Supreme Court
446 U.S. 544 (1980)



Upon exiting her plane, Mendenhall (defendant) was approached in the airport by two plain clothes Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents who asked to see her plane ticket and identification. The agents testified that they decided to question Mendenhall because she was behaving in a way typical of people illegally transporting drugs. Mendenhall showed the police her identification and ticket which they then gave back to her. After identifying themselves as DEA agents, the agents then asked if she would come with them to their office and she complied. The agents did not brandish their weapons but at trial, one of the agents testified that at this point if she had wanted to leave, Mendenhall would have been restrained. Once at the office, the agents asked if she would consent to a search of her bag and her person. She agreed. As she was undressing, two packages of heroin that Mendenhall was hiding on her person were discovered. The district court held that the consent to search was freely and voluntarily given while the court of appeals held that consent to the search was not voluntary and the result of prior government misconduct.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Stewart, J.)

Concurrence (Powell, J.)

Dissent (White. J.)

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