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United States v. Montoya-Hernandez

United States Supreme Court
473 U.S. 531 (1985)



On March 5, 1983, Rosa Elvira Montoya de Hernandez (defendant) flew into Los Angeles from Bogota, Columbia. Customs officials noted the number of trips Montoya de Hernandez had made into the country and questioned her. The officials did not believe Montoya de Hernandez’s story that she had come into the country with no hotel reservation, appointments, checks, or credit cards in order to buy items for sale in Columbia. Officials believed Montoya de Hernandez was smuggling drugs. A patdown and strip search revealed that Montoya de Hernandez was wearing two pairs of underwear and her stomach was firm. Officials believed Montoya de Hernandez was smuggling drugs in her alimentary canal. After the inspector was unable to book a return flight to Columbia, Montoya de Hernandez was held for observation for over 16 hours until a court order authorizing an x-ray and rectal exam was obtained. Drugs were found, and Montoya de Hernandez was arrested. Montoya de Hernandez was convicted by bench trial for federal drug crimes. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed because there was no “clear indication” Montoya de Hernandez was smuggling drugs in her alimentary canal. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Rehnquist, J.)

Dissent (Brennan, J.)

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