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Winston v. Lee

Significance, Impact


Andrew J. Winston, County Sheriff; Aubrey M. Davis, Jr.


Rudolph Lee, Jr.

Petitioners' Claim

It is unconstitutional for a state to authorize surgery under general anesthesia on a person to retrieve evidence for a criminal prosecution.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioners

Stacy F. Garrett III

Chief Lawyer for Respondent

Joseph Ryland Winston

Justices for the Court

Harry A. Blackmun, William J. Brennan, Jr. (writing for the Court), Warren E. Burger, 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 March 1985


It is a violation of the Fourth Amendment for a state to conduct a surgical intrusion into a robbery suspect for the purpose of retrieving a bullet when the surgery requires general anesthesia, the medical risks are in dispute, and there is no compelling need to recover the bullet in light of the availability of other evidence.

Related Cases

  • Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (1928).
  • Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757 (1966).
  • United States v. Montoya de Hernandez, 473 U.S. 531 (1985).

Further Readings

  • Biskupic, Joan, and Elder Witt. Congressional Quarterly's Guide to the U.S. Supreme Court, 3rd ed. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 1996.
  • "Search and Seizure." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. St. Paul: West Group, 1998.
  • Steiker, Carol S. "Counter-Revolution in Constitutional Criminal Procedure? Two Audiences, Two Answers." Michigan Law Review, August 1996, p. 2466.

Additional topics

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