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[Cite as United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez, 494 U.S. 259 (1990). Note: This decision regards Fourth Amendment protections to non-citizens outside this country. The Court mentions the right to arms at page 265 which is in a seperate file. The dissenting opinion touches on this on pages 287 ("'The people' are 'the governed.'") and 288 ("Americans vehemently attacked the notion that rights were matters of '"favor and grace,"' given to the people from the Government.") Listing the Second Amendment among individual rights is similar to Robertson v. Baldwin, 165 U.S. 275, 281-282 (1897) a century earlier.]



No. 88-1353. Argued November 7, 1989--Decided February 28, 1990

After the Government obtained an arrest warrant for respondent--a Mexican citizen and resident believed to be a leader of an organization that smuggles narcotics into this country--he was apprehended by Mexican police and transported here, where he was arrested. Following his arrest, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, working with Mexican officials, searched his Mexican residences and seized certain documents. The District Court granted his motion to suppress the evidence, concluding that the Fourth Amendment--which protects "the people" against unreasonable searches and seizures--applied to the searches, and that the DEA agents had failed to justify searching the premises without a warrant. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Citing Reid v. Covert, 354 U.S. 1--which held that American citizens tried abroad by United States military officials were entitled to Fifth and Sixth Amendment protections--the court concluded that the Constitution imposes substantive constraints on the Federal Government, even when it operates abroad. Relying on INS v. Lopez-Mendoza, 468 U.S. 1032--where a majority assumed that illegal aliens in the United States have Fourth Amendment rights--the court observed that it would be odd to acknowledge that respondent was entitled to trial-related rights guaranteed by the Fifth and Sixth Amendments, but not to Fourth Amendment protection.

Held: The Fourth Amendment does not apply to the search and seizure by United States agents of property owned by a nonresident alien and located in a foreign country. Pp. 264-275.

(a) If there were a constitutional violation in this case, it occurred solely in Mexico, since a Fourth Amendment violation is fully accomplished at the time of an unreasonable governmental intrusion whether or not the evidence seized is sought for use in a criminal trial. Thus, the Fourth Amendment functions differently from the Fifth Amendment, whose privilege against self-incrimination is a fundamental trial right of criminal defendants. P. 264.

(b) The Fourth Amendment phrase "the people" seems to be a term of art used in select parts of the Constitution and contrasts with the words "person" and "accused" used in Articles of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments regulating criminal procedures. This suggests that "the people" (p.260)refers to a class of persons who are part of a national community or who have otherwise developed sufficient connection with this country to be considered part of that community. Pp. 264-266.

(c) The Fourth Amendment's drafting history shows that its purpose was to protect the people of the United States against arbitrary action by their own Government and not to restrain the Federal Government's actions against aliens outside United States territory. Nor is there any indication that the Amendment was understood by the Framers' contemporaries to apply to United States activities directed against aliens in foreign territory or in international waters. Pp. 266-268.

(d) The view that every constitutional provision applies wherever the Government exercises its power is contrary to this Court's decisions in the Insular Cases, which held that not all constitutional provisions apply to governmental activity even in territories where the United States has sovereign power. See, e.g., Balzac v. Porto Rico, 258 U.S. 298. Indeed, the claim that extraterritorial aliens are entitled to rights under the Fifth Amendment--which speaks in the relatively universal term of "person"--has been emphatically rejected. Johnson v. Eisentrager, 339 U.S. 763, 784. Pp. 268-269.

(e) Respondent's reliance on Reid, supra, is misplaced, since that case stands only for the proposition that United States citizens stationed abroad could invoke the protection of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. Similarly, those cases in which aliens have been determined to enjoy certain constitutional rights establish only that aliens receive such protections when they have come within the territory of, and have developed substantial connections with, this country. See, e.g., Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202, 212. Respondent, however, is an alien with no previous significant voluntary connection with the United States, and his legal but involuntary presence here does not indicate any substantial connection with this country. The Court of Appeals' reliance on INS v. Lopez-Mendoza, supra, is also misplaced, since that case assumed that, but did not expressly address the question whether, the Fourth Amendment applies to illegal aliens in the United States. Even assuming such aliens--who are in this country voluntarily and presumably have accepted some societal obligations--would be entitled to Fourth Amendment protections, their situation differs from that of respondent, who had no voluntary connection with this country, that might place him among "the people." This Court's decisions expressly according differing protection to aliens than to citizens also undermine respondent's claim that treating aliens differently under the Fourth Amendment violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment. Pp. 269-273.

(f) The Court of Appeals' rule would have significant and deleterious consequences for the United States in conducting activities beyond its (p.261)borders. The rule would apply not only to law enforcement operations abroad, but also to other foreign operations--such as Armed Forces actions--which might result in "searches and seizures." Under the rule, aliens with no attachment to this country might bring actions for damages to remedy claimed violations of the Fourth Amendment in foreign countries or in international waters, and Members of the Executive and Legislative Branches would be plunged into a sea of uncertainty as to what might be reasonable in the way of searches and seizures conducted abroad. Any restrictions on searches and seizures incident to American action abroad must be imposed by the political branches through diplomatic understanding, treaty, or legislation. Pp. 273-275.

856 F. 2d 1214, reversed.

Rehnquist, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which White, O'Connor, Scalia, and Kennedy, JJ., joined. Kennedy, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 275. Stevens, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 279. Brennan, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Marshall, J., joined, post, p. 279. Blackmun, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 297.

Lawrence S. Robbins argued the cause for the United States. With him on the briefs were Solicitor General Starr, Assistant Attorney General Dennis, and Deputy Solicitor General Bryson.

Michael Pancer argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were Charles L. Goldberg and Patrick Q. Hall.[261.*]

Chief Justice Rehnquist delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question presented by this case is whether the Fourth Amendment applies to the search and seizure by United States agents of property that is owned by a nonresident alien and located in a foreign country. We hold that it does not.(p.262)

Respondent Rene Martin Verdugo-Urquidez is a citizen and resident of Mexico. He is believed by the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to be one of the leaders of a large and violent organization in Mexico that smuggles narcotics into the United States. Based on a complaint charging respondent with various narcotics-related offenses, the Government obtained a warrant for his arrest on August 3, 1985. In January 1986, Mexican police officers, after discussions with United States marshals, apprehended Verdugo-Urquidez in Mexico and transported him to the United States Border Patrol station in Calexico, California. There, United States marshals arrested respondent and eventually moved him to a correctional center in San Diego, California, where he remains incarcerated pending trial.

Following respondent's arrest, Terry Bowen, a DEA agent assigned to the Calexico DEA office, decided to arrange for searches of Verdugo-Urquidez's Mexican residences located in Mexicali and San Felipe. Bowen believed that the searches would reveal evidence related to respondent's alleged narcotics trafficking activities and his involvement in the kidnaping and torture-murder of DEA Special Agent Enrique Camarena Salazar (for which respondent subsequently has been convicted in a separate prosecution. See United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez, No. CR-87-422-ER (CD Cal., Nov. 22, 1988)). Bowen telephoned Walter White, the Assistant Special Agent in charge of the DEA office in Mexico City, and asked him to seek authorization for the search from the Director General of the Mexican Federal Judicial Police (MFJP). After several attempts to reach high ranking Mexican officials, White eventually contacted the Director General, who authorized the searches and promised the cooperation of Mexican authorities. Thereafter, DEA agents working in concert with officers of the MFJP searched respondent's properties in Mexicali and San Felipe and seized certain documents. In particular, the search of the Mexicali residence uncovered a tally sheet, which the Government (p.263)believes reflects the quantities of marijuana smuggled by Verdugo-Urquidez into the United States.

The District Court granted respondent's motion to suppress evidence seized during the searches, concluding that the Fourth Amendment applied to the searches and that the DEA agents had failed to justify searching respondent's premises without a warrant. A divided panel of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed. 856 F. 2d 1214 (1988). It cited this Court's decision in Reid v. Covert, 354 U.S. 1 (1957), which held that American citizens tried by United States military authorities in a foreign country were entitled to the protections of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments, and concluded that "[t]he Constitution imposes substantive constraints on the federal government, even when it operates abroad." 856 F. 2d, at 1218. Relying on our decision in INS v. Lopez-Mendoza, 468 U.S. 1032 (1984), where a majority of Justices assumed that illegal aliens in the United States have Fourth Amendment rights, the Ninth Circuit majority found it "difficult to conclude that Verdugo-Urquidez lacks these same protections." 856 F. 2d, at 1223. It also observed that persons in respondent's position enjoy certain trial-related rights, and reasoned that "[i]t would be odd indeed to acknowledge that Verdugo-Urquidez is entitled to due process under the fifth amendment, and to a fair trial under the sixth amendment.... and deny him the protection from unreasonable searches and seizures afforded under the fourth amendment." Id., at 1224. Having concluded that the Fourth Amendment applied to the searches of respondent's properties, the court went on to decide that the searches violated the Constitution because the DEA agents failed to procure a search warrant. Although recognizing that "an American search warrant would be of no legal validity in Mexico," the majority deemed it sufficient that a warrant would have "substantial constitutional value in this country," because it would reflect a magistrate's determination (p.264)that there existed probable cause to search and would define the scope of the search. Id., at 1230.

The dissenting judge argued that this Court's statement in United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp., 299 U.S. 304, 318 (1936), that "[n]either the Constitution nor the laws passed in pursuance of it have any force in foreign territory unless in respect of our own citizens," foreclosed any claim by respondent to Fourth Amendment rights. More broadly, he viewed the Constitution as a "compact" among the people of the United States, and the protections of the Fourth Amendment were expressly limited to "the people." We granted certiorari, 490 U.S. 1019 (1989).

Before analyzing the scope of the Fourth Amendment, we think it significant to note that it operates in a different manner than the Fifth Amendment, which is not at issue in this case. The privilege against self-incrimination guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment is a fundamental trial right of criminal defendants. See Malloy v. Hogan, 378 U.S. 1 (1964). Although conduct by law enforcement officials prior to trial may ultimately impair that right, a constitutional violation occurs only at trial. Kastigar v. United States, 406 U.S. 441, 453 (1972). The Fourth Amendment functions differently. It prohibits "unreasonable searches and seizures" whether or not the evidence is sought to be used in a criminal trial, and a violation of the Amendment is "fully accomplished" at the time of an unreasonable governmental intrusion. United States v. Calandra, 414 U.S. 338, 354 (1974); United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 906 (1984). For purposes of this case, therefore, if there were a constitutional violation, it occurred solely in Mexico. Whether evidence obtained from respondent's Mexican residences should be excluded at trial in the United States is a remedial question separate from the existence vel non of the constitutional violation. Calandra, supra, at 354; Leon, supra, at 906.

The Fourth Amendment provides:

[Currently at pages 259-264.
Proceed to pages 265-266.
Proceed to pages 267-298.]

[261.*] Kent S. Scheidegger filed a brief for the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation as amicus curiae urging reversal.

John A. Powell, Paul L. Hoffman, and David D. Cole filed a brief for the American Civil Liberties Union et al. as amici curiae urging affirmance.