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Illinois v. Lafayette

Significance, Further Readings


State of Illinois


Ralph Lafayette

Petitioner's Claim

The Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the search of an arrestee's personal knapsack and closed containers contained therein as part of a routine inventory search conducted while as the arrestee is being booked into jail.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioner

Michael A. Ficaro

Chief Lawyer for Respondent

Peter A. Carusona

Justices for the Court

Harry A. Blackmun, William J. Brennan, Jr., Warren E. Burger (writing for the Court), Thurgood Marshall, Sandra Day O'Connor, Lewis F. Powell, Jr., William H. Rehnquist, John Paul Stevens, Byron R. White

Justices Dissenting



Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

20 June 1983


When an arrestee is being jailed, the Fourth Amendment does not prevent police officers from searching, without a warrant, the knapsack or purse of the arrestee.


The decision confirmed that a police officer may conduct a warrantless search of the personal possessions of an arrestee who is about to be jailed. The most important principle that emerged from the case was the notion that the U.S. Supreme Court would not require police officers to use the least intrusive means possible in carrying out a warrantless search. Following the decision, the Lafayette case was, and still is, frequently cited for that proposition.

Related Cases

  • South Dakota v. Opperman, 428 U.S. 364 (1976).
  • United States v. Chadwick, 433 U.S. 1 (1977).

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1981 to 1988