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Knowles v. Iowa

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Title: Knowles v. Iowa  
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Subject: Jasper County, Iowa, Katz v. United States, Terry v. Ohio, Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, List of United States Supreme Court cases by the Rehnquist Court
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Knowles v. Iowa

Knowles v. Iowa
Argued November 3, 1998
Decided December 8, 1998
Full case name Patrick Knowles, Petitioner v. Iowa
Citations 525 U.S. 113 (more)
119 S. Ct. 484; 142 L. Ed. 2d 492; 1998 U.S. LEXIS 8068; 67 U.S.L.W. 4027; 98 Daily Journal DAR 12417; 1998 Colo. J. C.A.R. 6164
Prior history Conviction affirmed by divided Iowa Supreme Court, 569 N. W. 2d 601 (1997). On writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Iowa
A law enforcement officer may not search a person's vehicle without their consent when they are not in custody once they have been cited without violating the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. U.S. Supreme Court reversed and remanded.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Rehnquist, joined by unanimous
Laws applied
Iowa Code §321.485(1)(a); U.S. Const. amend. IV

Knowles v. Iowa, 525 U.S. 113 (1998), was a decision by the United States Supreme Court which ruled that the Fourth Amendment prohibits a police officer from further searching a vehicle which was stopped for a minor traffic offense once the officer has written a citation for the offense.


  • Case 1
  • See also 2
  • Further reading 3
  • External links 4


Patrick Knowles was stopped in Newton, Iowa, driving 43 mph (69 km/h) in a 25 zone. The police officer ticketed Knowles rather than arresting him, as was permitted under Iowa law. The officer then searched the car, finding marijuana and a "pot pipe." Knowles was then arrested and charged with violation of state laws dealing with controlled substances.

Before trial, Knowles argued the search was not applicable to the "search incident to arrest" exception recognized in United States v. Robinson, 414 U. S. 218 (1973), because he had not been placed under arrest. At the hearing on the motion to suppress, the police officer conceded that he had neither Knowles' consent nor probable cause to conduct the search. He relied on Iowa law dealing with such searches.

Because Iowa Code §321.485(1)(a) permits either an arrest or a citation when making a traffic stop, the Iowa Supreme Court has interpreted this provision as providing authority to officers to conduct a full-blown search of an automobile and driver in those cases where police elect not to make a custodial arrest. The trial court denied the motion to suppress and the defendant was convicted.

A divided Supreme Court of Iowa upheld the search and the conviction.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided that the search was unlawful.

Because, given the type of stop, there were no grounds for the officer to believe that his safety was in jeopardy, and thus had no probable cause to perform a search without consent of the driver. Also, since Knowles was not "in custody", there was no custodial exception to permit a search either. Thus the search was ruled illegal.

The Supreme Court reversed the case and remanded it for redetermination.

See also

Further reading

External links

  • Text of the case from Findlaw
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