United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez
, 494 U.S. 259
(1990), was a United States Supreme Court
decision that determined that Fourth Amendment
protections do not apply to searches and seizures by United States
agents of property owned by a nonresident alien in a foreign country.
Rene Martin Verdugo-Urquidez, a Mexican
citizen reputed to be a drug-lord
involved in the torture
agent Enrique Camarena Salazar
, was arrested and brought to the United States
. The DEA decided that it would be a good idea to search the defendant
's home, so agents received authorization from the Mexican government to conduct the search. The agents found documents believed to be the defendant's records of his marijuana
When the government sought to introduce the documents as evidence in court, the defendant objected, asserting that they were attained without a warrant, and therefore could not constitutionally be used at trial. The United States District Court agreed, and invoked the exclusionary rule to suppress the documents (i.e. to prevent them from being used as evidence). The government appealed this ruling, which was affirmed by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The government then appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court had to determine whether the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures applied where United States agents searched and seized property owned by a nonresident alien in a foreign country.
Chief Justice Rehnquist
authored the Opinion for the Court, joined by Justices White
, contending that "the people" intended to be protected by the Fourth Amendment were the people of the United States, and that the defendant in this case lacked a sufficient relationship with the U.S. to call upon the U.S. Constitution for protection.
Justice Kennedy also authored a concurring opinion, contending that the application of the Fourth Amendment in cases such as this would interfere with the ability of the U.S. to engage in actions designed to protect our interests abroad.
Justice Stevens also authored a concurring opinion, contending that the prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures does apply in such cases, but concluding that this search and seizure was reasonable, because it was done with the permission and assistance of the government of Mexico, and because no U.S. court would have had the authority to issue a warrant for such a search.
dissented, joined by Justice Marshall
, contending that the Fourth Amendment was indeed intended by the framers to apply to any action undertaken by the federal government. They contended that the Constitution grants the government limited powers, and the application of rights is one such limitation. Therefore, no agent of the federal government could ever conduct a search that was not governed by the Fourth Amendment.
Justice Blackmun also dissented, contending that when a foreign national is charged with a violation of U.S. criminal law, he is being treated as one of the governed.
- Soltero, Carlos R. (2006). Latinos and American Law: Landmark Supreme Court Cases. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.