Brief Fact Summary. One and a half hours after arresting the Respondents, Chadwick, Machado, and Leary (Respondents), federal narcotics agents opened a footlocker confiscated during the arrest. The agents had not obtained a warrant to open the footlocker.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Once property cannot be accessed by an arrestee, it cannot be searched without a warrant.
Held. Yes. Personal effects that have been confiscated by the police incident to an arrest cannot be searched without a warrant, unless exigent circumstances exist.
Discussion. The Fourth Amendment protects people, not places. Because people have a legitimate expectation of privacy in their personal effects, a warrant is required to search confiscated luggage.