Florida v. Bostick 501 U.S. 429 (1991)
Terrance Bostick boarded a bus in Miami, Florida intending to arrive in Atlanta, Georgia. During a stop in Fort Lauderdale, officers from the Broward County Sherrif's Department, holding a gun in a recognizable zippered pouch and displaying badges, boarded the bus, approached Bostick without suspicion, questioned him and asked for consent to search his luggage. The officer's informed Bostick that he was free to deny their request to search. Bostick consented to the search. Cocaine was found in his luggage and Bostick was arrested.
Bostick moved to suppress the seizure of the cocaine as unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment. His motion was denied by the trial court and affirmed by the Florida Court of Appeals who requested a clarification from (certified a question to) the Florida Supreme Court. The Court, holding that a reasonable person would not have felt free to leave the bus to avoid the oficer's questioning, adopted a per se rule that "working the buses" was a violation of Fourth Amendment protections, overturning the decisions of the lower state courts.
In reversing the decision of the Florida State Supreme Court, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor held that the Florida Supreme court was mistaken in adopting the per se rule. Relying on INS v. Delgado (1984), O'Connor held that the fact that the events took place on a bus was but one factor in determining whether the encounter was coercive in nature. She held that the question was not whether Bostick was free to leave, as argued by the Florida Supreme Court, but rather was he free to decline the officer's request and terminate the encounter.
Justice Thurgood Marshall, joined by Justice Blackmun and Justice Stevens, dissented. He held, "The majority attempts to gloss over the violence that today's decision does to the Fourth Amendment with empty admonitions. "If the war on drugs is to be fought," the majority intones, "those who fight it must respect the rights of individuals, whether or not those individuals are suspected of having committed a crime." The majority's actions, however, speak louder than its words."