468 U.S. 796 (1984), 82-5298, Segura v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 82-5298
Citation:468 U.S. 796, 104 S.Ct. 3380, 82 L.Ed.2d 599
Party Name:Segura v. United States
Case Date:July 05, 1984
Court:United States Supreme Court

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468 U.S. 796 (1984)

104 S.Ct. 3380, 82 L.Ed.2d 599



United States

No. 82-5298

United States Supreme Court

July 5, 1984

Argued November 9, 1983




Acting on information that petitioners probably were trafficking in cocaine from their apartment, New York Drug Enforcement Task Force agents began a surveillance of petitioners. Thereafter, upon observing petitioner Colon deliver a bulky package to one Parra at a restaurant parking lot, while petitioner Segura and one Rivudalla-Vidal visited inside the restaurant, the agents followed Parra and Rivudalla-Vidal to their apartment and stopped them. Parra was found to possess cocaine, and she and Rivudalla-Vidal were immediately arrested. After being advised of his constitutional rights, Rivudalla-Vidal admitted that he had purchased the cocaine from petitioner Segura and confirmed that petitioner Colon had made the delivery at the restaurant. Task Force agents were then authorized by an Assistant United States Attorney to arrest petitioners, and were advised that a search warrant for petitioners' apartment probably could not be obtained until the following day, but that the agent should secure the premises to prevent destruction of evidence. Later that same evening, the agents arrested petitioner Segura in the lobby of petitioners' apartment building, took him to the apartment, knocked on the door, and, when it was opened by petitioner Colon, entered the apartment without requesting or receiving permission. The agents then conducted a limited security check of the apartment and, in the process, observed, in plain view, various drug paraphernalia. Petitioner Colon was then arrested, and both petitioners were taken into custody. Two agents remained in the apartment awaiting the warrant, but, because of "administrative delay," the search warrant was not issued until some 19 hours after the initial entry into the apartment. In the search pursuant to the warrant, the agents discovered, inter alia, cocaine and records of narcotics transactions. These items were seized, together with those observed during the security check. The District Court granted petitioners' pretrial motion to suppress all the seized evidence. The Court of Appeals held that the evidence discovered in plain view on the initial entry, but not the evidence seized during the warrant search, must be suppressed. Petitioners were subsequently convicted of violating federal drug laws, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.


1. The exclusionary rule reaches not only primary evidence obtained as a direct result of an illegal search or seizure, but also evidence later

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discovered and found to be derivative of an illegality or "fruit of the poisonous tree." Nardone v. United States, 308 U.S. 338, 341. The exclusionary rule does not apply, however, if the connection between the illegal police conduct and the discovery and seizure of the evidence is "so attenuated as to dissipate the taint," ibid., as, for example, where the police had an "independent source" for discovery of the evidence. Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States, 251 U.S. 385. Pp. 804-805.

2. Here, there was an independent source for the challenged evidence; the evidence was discovered during a search of petitioners' apartment pursuant to a valid warrant. The information on which the warrant was secured came from sources wholly unconnected with the initial entry, [104 S.Ct. 3382] and was known to the agents well before that entry. Hence, whether the initial entry was illegal or not is irrelevant to the admissibility of the evidence, and exclusion of the evidence is not warranted as derivative or as "fruit of the poisonous tree." Pp. 813-816.

697 F.2d 300, affirmed.

BURGER, C.J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, III, V, and VI, in which WHITE, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined, and an opinion with respect to Part IV, in which O'CONNOR, J., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined, post, p. 817.

BURGER, J., lead opinion

CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.

We granted certiorari to decide whether, because of an earlier illegal entry, the Fourth Amendment requires suppression of evidence seized later from a private residence

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pursuant to a valid search warrant which was issued on information obtained by the police before the entry into the residence.


Resolution of this issue requires us to consider two separate questions: first, whether the entry and internal securing of the premises constituted an impermissible seizure of all the contents of the apartment, seen and unseen; second, whether the evidence first discovered during the search of the apartment pursuant to a valid warrant issued the day after the entry should have been suppressed as "fruit" of the illegal entry. Our disposition of both questions is carefully limited.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's holding that there were no exigent circumstances to justify the warrantless entry into petitioners' apartment. That issue is not before us, and we have no reason to question the courts' holding that that search was illegal. The ensuing interference with petitioners' possessory interests in their apartment, however, is another matter. On this first question, we conclude that, assuming that there was a seizure of all the contents of the petitioners' apartment when agents secured the premises from within, that seizure did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Specifically, we hold that, where officers, having probable cause, enter premises and, with probable cause, arrest the occupants who have legitimate possessory interests in its contents and take them into custody and, for no more than the period here involved, secure the premises from within to preserve the status quo while others, in good faith, are in the process of obtaining a warrant, they do not violate the Fourth Amendment's proscription against unreasonable seizures.1

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The illegality of the initial entry, as we will show, has no bearing on the second question. The resolution of this second question requires that we determine whether the initial entry tainted the discovery of the evidence now challenged. On this issue, we hold that the evidence discovered during the subsequent search of the apartment the following day pursuant to the valid search warrant issued wholly on information known to the officers before the entry into the apartment need not have been suppressed as "fruit" of the illegal entry, because the warrant and the information on which it was based were unrelated to the entry, and therefore constituted an independent source for the evidence under Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States, 251 U.S. 385 (1920).


In January, 1981, the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force received information indicating that petitioners Andres Segura and Luz Marina Colon probably were trafficking in cocaine from their New York apartment. Acting on this information, Task Force agents maintained continuing surveillance over petitioners until their arrest on February 12, 1981. On February 9, agents observed a meeting between Segura and Enrique Rivudalla-Vidal, during which, as it later developed, the two discussed the possible sale of cocaine by Segura to Rivudalla-Vidal. Three days later, February 12, Segura telephoned Rivudalla-Vidal and agreed to [104 S.Ct. 3383] provide him with cocaine. The two agreed that the delivery would be made at 5 p.m. that day at a designated fast-food restaurant in Queens, N.Y. Rivudalla-Vidal and one Esther Parra arrived at the restaurant at 5 p.m., as agreed. While Segura and Rivudalla-Vidal visited inside the restaurant, agents observed Colon deliver a bulky package to Parra, who had remained in Rivudalla-Vidal's car in the restaurant parking lot. A short time after the delivery of the package, Rivudalla-Vidal and Parra left the restaurant and

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proceeded to their apartment. Task Force agents followed. The agents stopped the couple as they were about to enter Rivudalla-Vidal's apartment. Parra was found to possess cocaine; both Rivudalla-Vidal and Parra were immediately arrested.

After Rivudalla-Vidal and Parra were advised of their constitutional rights, Rivudalla-Vidal agreed to cooperate with the agents. He admitted that he had purchased the cocaine from Segura and he confirmed that Colon had made the delivery at the fast-food restaurant earlier that day, as the agents had observed. Rivudalla-Vidal informed the agents that Segura was to call him at approximately 10 o'clock that evening to learn if Rivudalla-Vidal had sold the cocaine, in which case Segura was to deliver additional cocaine.

Between 6:30 and 7 p.m. the same day, Task Force agents sought and received authorization from an Assistant United States Attorney to arrest Segura and Colon. The agents were advised by the Assistant United States Attorney that, because of the lateness of the hour, a search warrant for petitioners' apartment probably could not be obtained until the following day, but that the agents should proceed to secure the premises to prevent the destruction of evidence.

At about 7:30 p.m., the agents arrived at petitioners' apartment and established external surveillance. At 11:15 p.m., Segura, alone, entered the lobby of the apartment building, where he was immediately arrested by agents. He first claimed he did not reside in the building. The agents took him to his third floor apartment, and when they knocked on the apartment door, a woman later identified as Colon appeared; the agents then entered with...

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