428 U.S. 433 (1976), 74-958, United States v. Janis

Docket Nº:No. 74-958
Citation:428 U.S. 433, 96 S.Ct. 3021, 49 L.Ed.2d 1046
Party Name:United States v. Janis
Case Date:July 06, 1976
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 433

428 U.S. 433 (1976)

96 S.Ct. 3021, 49 L.Ed.2d 1046

United States



No. 74-958

United States Supreme Court

July 6, 1976

Argued December 8, 1975




Based upon the affidavit of a police officer, a Los Angeles judge issued a search warrant, pursuant to which the police seized from respondent $4,940 in cash and certain wagering records. The officer advised the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that respondent had been arrested for bookmaking activity. Using a calculation based upon the seized evidence, the IRS assessed respondent for wagering excise taxes and levied upon the $4,940 in partial satisfaction. In the subsequent state criminal proceeding against respondent, the trial court found the police officer's affidavit defective, granted a motion to quash the warrant, and ordered the seized items returned to the respondent, except for the $4,940. Respondent filed a refund claim for the $4,940 and, later, this action. The Government answered and counterclaimed for the unpaid balance of the assessment. Respondent moved to suppress the evidence seized and all copies thereof, and to quash the assessment. The District Court, after a hearing, concluded that respondent was entitled to a refund, because the assessment "was based in substantial part, if not completely, on illegally procured evidence in violation of [respondent's] Fourth Amendment rights," and that, under the circumstances, respondent was not required to prove the extent of the claimed refund. The assessment was quashed and the counterclaim accordingly was dismissed. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: The judicially created exclusionary rule should not be extended to forbid the use in the civil proceeding of one sovereign (here the Federal Government) of evidence illegally seized by a criminal law enforcement agent of another sovereign (here the state government), since the likelihood of deterring law enforcement conduct through such a rule is not sufficient to outweigh the societal costs imposed by the exclusion. Pp. 443-460.

(a) The prime, if not the sole, purpose of the exclusionary rule "is to deter future unlawful police conduct." Pp. 443-447.

(b) Whether the exclusionary rule is a deterrent has not yet been demonstrated. Assuming, however, that it is a deterrent,

Page 434

then its use in situations where it is now applied must be deemed to suffice to accomplish its purpose, because the local law enforcement official is already "punished" by the exclusion of the evidence in both the state and the federal criminal trials. The additional marginal deterrence provided by its extension in cases like this one does not outweigh the societal costs of excluding concededly relevant evidence. Pp. 447-460.

Reversed and remanded.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 460. STEWART, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 460. STEVENS, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

BLACKMUN, J., lead opinion

[96 S.Ct. 3023] MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents an issue of the appropriateness of an extension of the judicially created exclusionary rule: is evidence seized by a state criminal law enforcement officer in good faith, but nonetheless unconstitutionally, inadmissible in a civil proceeding by or against the United States?


In November, 1968, the Los Angeles police obtained a warrant directing a search for bookmaking paraphernalia at two specified apartment locations in the city and, as well, on the respective persons of Morris Aaron Levine and respondent Max Janis. The warrant was issued by

Page 435

a judge of the Municipal Court of the Los Angeles Judicial District. It was based upon the affidavit of Officer Leonard Weissman.1 After the search, made pursuant

Page 436

to the warrant, both the respondent and Levine were arrested and the police seized from respondent property consisting of $4,940 in cash and certain wagering records.2 Soon thereafter, Officer Weissman telephoned an agent of the United States Internal Revenue Service and informed the agent that Janis had been arrested for bookmaking activity.3 With the assistance of Weissman, who was familiar with bookmakers' [96 S.Ct. 3024] codes, the revenue agent analyzed the wagering records that had been seized and determined from them the gross volume of respondent's gambling activity for the five days immediately preceding the seizure. Weissman informed the agent that he had conducted a surveillance of respondent's activities that indicated that respondent had been engaged in bookmaking

Page 437

during the 77-day period from September 14 through November 30, 1968, the day of the arrest.

Respondent had not filed any federal wagering tax return pertaining to bookmaking activities for that 77-day period. Based exclusively upon its examination of the evidence so obtained by the Los Angeles police, the Internal Revenue Service made an assessment jointly against respondent and Levine for wagering taxes, under § 4401 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, 26 U.S.C. § 4401, in the amount of $89,026.09, plus interest. The amount of the assessment was computed by first determining respondent's average daily gross proceeds for the five-day period covered by the seized material and analyzed by the agent, and then multiplying the resulting figure by 77, the period of the police surveillance of respondent's activities.4 The assessment having been made, the Internal Revenue Service exercised its statutory authority, under 26 U.S.C. § 6331, to levy upon the $4,940 in cash in partial satisfaction of the assessment against respondent.

Charges were filed in due course against respondent and Levine in Los Angeles Municipal Court for violation of the local gambling laws. They moved-to quash the search warrant. A suppression hearing was held by the same judge who had issued the warrant. The defendants pressed upon the court the case of Spinelli v. United States, 393 U.S. 410 (1969), which had been decided just three weeks earlier and after the search warrant had been issued. They urged that the Weissman affidavit did not set forth in sufficient detail the underlying circumstances to enable the issuing magistrate to determine independently

Page 438

the reliability of the information supplied by the informants. The judge granted the motion to quash the warrant. He then ordered that all items seized pursuant to it be returned except the cash that had been levied upon by the Internal Revenue Service. App. 78-80.

In June, 1969, respondent filed a claim for refund of the $4,940. The claim was not honored, and, 18 months later, in December, 1970, respondent filed suit for that amount in the United States District Court for the Central District of California. The Government answered and counterclaimed for the substantial unpaid balance of the assessment.5 In pretrial proceedings, it was agreed that the

sole basis of the computation of the civil tax assessment . . . was . . . the items obtained pursuant to the search warrant . . . and the information furnished to [the revenue agent] by Officer Weissman with respect to the duration of [respondent's] alleged wagering activities.6

Id. at 18. Respondent then moved to suppress the evidence seized, and all copies thereof in the possession of the Service, and to quash the assessment. Id. at 224.

[96 S.Ct. 3025] At the outset of the hearing on the motion, the District Court observed that it was "reluctantly holding that

Page 439

the affidavit supporting the search warrant is insufficient under the Spinelli and Aguilar [v. Texas, 378 U.S. 108 (1964)] doctrines." Id. at 47. It then concluded that "[a]ll of the evidence utilized as the basis" of the assessment "was obtained directly or indirectly as a result of the search pursuant to the defective search warrant," and that, consequently, the assessment

was based in substantial part, if not completely, on illegally procured evidence . . . in violation of [respondent's] Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

73-1 USTC ¶ 16,083, p. 81,392 (1973). The court concluded that Janis was entitled to a refund of the $4,940, together with interest thereon,

for the reason that substantially all, if not all, of the evidence utilized by the defendants herein in making their assessment . . . was illegally obtained, and, as such, the assessment was invalid.

Ibid. Further, where, as here, "illegally obtained evidence constitutes the basis of a federal tax assessment," the respondent was "not required to prove the extent of the refund to which he claims he is entitled." Id. at 81,393. Instead, it was sufficient if he prove "that substantially all, if not all, of the evidence upon which the assessment was based was the result of illegally obtained evidence." Accordingly, the court ordered that the civil tax assessment made by the Internal Revenue Service "against all the property and assets of . . . Janis be quashed," and entered judgment for the respondent. Ibid. The Government's counterclaim was dismissed with prejudice. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, by unpublished memorandum without opinion, affirmed on the basis of the District Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law. Pet. for Cert. 12A.

Because of the obvious importance of the question, we granted certiorari. 421 U.S. 1010 (1975).

Page 440


Some initial observations about the procedural posture of the case in the District Court are indicated. If there is to be no...

To continue reading