The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that the police may search bus passengers and their luggage for drugs or weapons without first telling them of their rights.
The ruling gives police guidance on how to approach and search passengers. The court ruled 6-3 that officers in Tallahassee, Fla., were within their rights as they questioned and searched two men aboard a Greyhound bus in 1999.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, said the passengers did not have to be told that they didn't have to cooperate. "Bus passengers answer officers' questions and otherwise cooperate not because of coercion, but because the passengers know that their participation enhances their own safety and the safety of those around them," he wrote.
The case focused on the difference between police questioning on a bus and in a less confining environment, like a sidewalk. In both cases, police would need persmission or probable cause to search someone but, on the street, the person being stopped could refuse to cooperate and keep walking.
The case is United States v. Drayton, 01-631.