United States v. Drayton (2002) | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Criminal Law

United States v. Drayton (2002) is a United States Supreme Court case that upheld the constitutionality of voluntary searches on buses by law enforcement officers.

In United States v. Drayton (2002), the United States Supreme Court addressed the constitutionality of voluntary searches conducted by law enforcement officers on buses. The case involved two men who were riding on a bus when they were approached by two police officers who asked to search their bags. The men consented to the search, and the officers found drugs and drug paraphernalia.

The men argued that the search was unconstitutional because it was conducted in a coercive environment, and they did not feel free to refuse the search. The Supreme Court rejected this argument, holding that the search was consensual and did not violate the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The Court noted that bus passengers have a reduced expectation of privacy because they are in a public setting and have chosen to travel on a commercial carrier. The Court also emphasized that the officers had clearly informed the men that the search was voluntary and that they were free to refuse. The Court found that the officers had not used any coercive tactics or threatened the men in any way.

The Court’s decision in United States v. Drayton established that law enforcement officers may conduct voluntary searches on buses without violating the Fourth Amendment, as long as the search is conducted in a consensual manner and passengers are informed that the search is voluntary.

The case has been criticized by some civil liberties advocates who argue that it has eroded Fourth Amendment protections and has opened the door to potentially abusive searches by law enforcement officers. However, others argue that the decision was a reasonable balancing of individual privacy rights and the government’s interest in ensuring public safety.

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Last Modified: 03/14/2023


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