462 U.S. 306 (1983), 81-2169, Haring v. Prosise

Docket Nº:No. 81-2169.
Citation:462 U.S. 306, 103 S.Ct. 2368, 76 L.Ed.2d 595
Party Name:Gilbert A. HARING, Lieutenant, Arlington County Police Department, et al., Petitioners v. John Franklin PROSISE.
Case Date:June 13, 1983
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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462 U.S. 306 (1983)

103 S.Ct. 2368, 76 L.Ed.2d 595

Gilbert A. HARING, Lieutenant, Arlington County Police Department, et al., Petitioners

v.

John Franklin PROSISE.

No. 81-2169.

United States Supreme Court.

June 13, 1983

Argued April 20, 1983.

[103 S.Ct. 2369] Syllabus[*]

SYLLABUS

A Virginia trial court accepted respondent's plea of guilty to a charge of manufacturing a controlled substance. At the hearing at which respondent pleaded guilty, one of petitioner police officers gave a brief account of the search of respondent's apartment that led to the discovery of material typically used in manufacturing the controlled substance. Thereafter, respondent brought a damages action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in Federal District Court against petitioners, officers who participated in the search of his apartment, alleging that his Fourth Amendment rights had been violated. The District Court granted summary judgment for petitioners on the ground that respondent's guilty plea to the criminal charge barred his § 1983 claim. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded.

Held:

1. The § 1983 action is not barred on the asserted ground that under principles of collateral estoppel generally applied by the Virginia courts, respondent's conviction would bar his subsequent civil challenge to police conduct, and that a federal court must therefore give the state conviction the same effect under 28 U.S.C. § 1738, which generally requires federal courts to give preclusive effect to state-court judgments if the courts of the State from which the [103 S.Ct. 2370] judgments emerged would do so. Under collateral-estoppel rules applied by Virginia courts, unless an issue was actually litigated and determined in the prior judicial proceeding, it will not be treated as final for purposes of the later action. Furthermore, under Virginia law collateral estoppel precludes litigation of only those issues necessary to support the judgment entered in the first action. Thus, the collateral-estoppel doctrine would not be invoked in this case by Virginia courts for at least three reasons. First, the legality of the search of respondent's apartment was not litigated in the criminal proceedings. Second, the criminal proceedings did not decide against respondent any issue on which he must prevail in order to establish his § 1983 claim, the only question determined by the guilty plea being whether respondent unlawfully engaged in the manufacture of a controlled substance. This question is irrelevant to the legality of the search or to respondent's right to compensation from state officials under

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§ 1983. Finally, none of the issues in the § 1983 action could have been "necessarily" determined in the criminal proceeding. A determination as to whether or not the search of respondent's apartment was legal would have been entirely irrelevant in the context of the guilty plea proceeding. Pp. 2372-2375.

2. Nor is litigation of respondent's § 1983 damages claim barred on the asserted ground that because he had an opportunity to raise his Fourth Amendment claim in the criminal prosecution, by pleading guilty he should be deemed to have either admitted the legality of the search or waived any Fourth Amendment claim. The guilty plea in no way constituted an admission that the search of his apartment was proper under the Fourth Amendment. It may not be assumed that a guilty plea is based on a defendant's determination that he would be unable to prevail on a motion to suppress evidence, since a decision to plead guilty may have any number of other motivations. Cf. Tollett v. Henderson, 411 U.S. 258, 263, 268, 93 S.Ct. 1602, 1606, 1608, 36 L.Ed.2d 235. Similarly, although a guilty plea results in the defendant's loss of any meaningful opportunity he might otherwise have had in the criminal proceeding to challenge the admissibility of evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment, it does not follow that a guilty plea is a "waiver" of antecedent Fourth Amendment claims that may be given effect outside the confines of the criminal proceeding. And while a Fourth Amendment claim ordinarily may not be raised in a habeas corpus proceeding following a guilty plea, that conclusion does not rest on any notion of waiver, but rests on the fact that the claim is irrelevant to the constitutional validity of the conviction. Thus, the justifications for denying habeas review of Fourth Amendment claims following a guilty plea are inapplicable to an action under § 1983. Adoption of a rule of preclusion in this case would threaten important interests in preserving federal courts as an available forum for the vindication of constitutional rights. Pp. 2375-2378.

667 F.2d 1133 (4 Cir.1981), affirmed.

COUNSEL

David R. Lasso argued the cause for petitioners. With him on the briefs wasCharles G. Flinn.

Norman A. Townsend argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief wereSebastian K.D. Graber and Bradley S. Stetler.*

* Fred E. Inbau, Wayne W. Schmidt, James P. Manak, Evelle J. Younger, Daniel B. Hales, and David Crump filed a brief for Americans for Effective Law Enforcement, Inc., et al. as amici curiae urging reversal.

Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed by Charles S. Sims andBurt Neuborne for the American Civil Liberties Union; and by Stephen A. Saltzburg for the University of Virginia School of Law Post-Conviction Assistance Project.

David R. Lasso, Arlington, Va., for petitioners.

Norman A. Townsend, Alexandria, Va., for respondent.

OPINION

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Justice MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

The trial court accepted respondent John Franklin Prosise's plea of guilty to one count of manufacturing a controlled substance--phencyclidine. At the hearing at which respondent pleaded guilty, a police officer gave a brief account of the search of respondent's apartment that led to the discovery of material typically used in manufacturing this substance. Thereafter, Prosise brought a damages action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in federal district court against petitioner Gilbert A. Haring and the other officers who participated in the search of his apartment. The question presented by this case is whether respondent's § 1983 claim is barred by his prior guilty plea.

I

On April 27, 1978, pursuant to a plea agreement, Prosise pleaded guilty in the Circuit Court for Arlington County, Va., to [103 S.Ct. 2371] one count of manufacturing phencyclidine. The Commonwealth then called one witness, Detective Henry Allen of the Arlington County Police Department. Allen testified that on September 7, 1977, he responded to a radio call directing him to an Arlington apartment which turned out to be leased to Prosise. By the time he arrived, two uniformed officers had placed Prosise under arrest for the possession of a controlled substance. After entering the apartment, Allen noticed various chemicals in the apartment as well as a quantity of what he believed to be phencyclidine. A warrant was later obtained for a search of the apartment. Allen and Detective Petti then conducted a search which led to the seizure of devices and chemicals used to manufacture phencyclidine,

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receipts for such chemicals, a paper containing a formula for making phencyclidine, and two buckets containing traces of the substance.

At the conclusion of Allen's testimony, the judge accepted Prosise's guilty plea, finding that it had been entered voluntarily and intelligently and that it had a sufficient basis in fact. On June 23, 1978, the court denied Prosise's motion to withdraw his plea and sentenced him to 25 years' imprisonment. 1

On January 23, 1979, while under confinement in the Arlington Detention Center, Prosise filed a pro se action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Lt. Gilbert A. Haring and various other members of the Arlington County Police Department who had participated in the search of his apartment. His complaint alleged that the officers had unlawfully searched his apartment prior to obtaining a search warrant, and that after obtaining the warrant the officers conducted a search that exceeded the scope of the warrant.

The District Court granted summary judgment for defendants on the ground that Prosise's guilty plea to the charge of manufacturing phencyclidine barred his § 1983 claim. The court reasoned that Prosise's failure to assert his Fourth Amendment claim in state court constituted a waiver of that right precluding its assertion in any subsequent proceeding. It relied primarily on this Court's decision in Tollett v. Henderson, 411 U.S. 258, 93 S.Ct. 1602, 36 L.Ed.2d 235 (1973), which held that when a state criminal defendant has pleaded guilty to the offense for which he was indicted by the grand jury, he cannot in a later federal habeas corpus proceeding raise a claim of discrimination in the selection of the grand jury. The District Court stated that, under the reasoning in Tollett, a guilty plea would similarly foreclose federal habeas inquiry into the constitutionality

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of a search that turned up evidence of the crime charged. The court concluded:

"[i]f a defendant who pleads guilty is foreclosed from obtaining his freedom because of an illegal search and seizure, he should not be allowed to secure damages in a § 1983 suit and thereby litigate the antecedent constitutional question relating to the search that could not otherwise be heard because of Tollett."

The District Court also appears to have held that Prosise's plea of guilty constituted an implied admission that the search of his apartment was legal. The court stated that even though the constitutionality of the police conduct was not litigated in the state criminal proceedings...

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