480 U.S. 340 (1987), 85-608, Illinois v. Krull

Docket Nº:No. 85-608
Citation:480 U.S. 340, 107 S.Ct. 1160, 94 L.Ed.2d 364, 55 U.S.L.W. 4291
Party Name:Illinois v. Krull
Case Date:March 09, 1987
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 340

480 U.S. 340 (1987)

107 S.Ct. 1160, 94 L.Ed.2d 364, 55 U.S.L.W. 4291

Illinois

v.

Krull

No. 85-608

United States Supreme Court

March 9, 1987

Argued November 5, 1986

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF ILLINOIS

Syllabus

An Illinois statute, as it existed in 1981, required licensed motor vehicle and vehicular parts sellers to permit state officials to inspect certain required records. In 1981, pursuant to the statute, a police detective entered respondents' automobile wrecking yard and asked to see records of vehicle purchases. He was told that the records could not be located, but was given a list of approximately five purchases. After receiving permission to look at the cars in the yard, he ascertained that three were stolen and that a fourth had had its identification number removed. He then seized the cars, and respondents were arrested and charged with various crimes. The state trial court granted respondents' motion to suppress the evidence seized from the yard, agreeing with a federal court ruling, issued the day after the search, that the state statute violated the Fourth Amendment because it permitted officers unbridled discretion in their warrantless searches. The State Supreme Court affirmed, rejecting petitioner's argument that the seized evidence was admissible because the detective had acted in good faith reliance on the statute in making the search.

Held:

1. The Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule does not apply to evidence obtained by police who acted in objectively reasonable reliance upon a statute authorizing warrantless administrative searches, but which is subsequently found to violate the Fourth Amendment. Pp. 349-355.

(a) Application of the exclusionary rule in these circumstances would have little deterrent effect on future police misconduct, which is the basic purpose of the rule. Officers conducting such searches are simply fulfilling their responsibility to enforce the statute as written. If a statute is not clearly unconstitutional, officers cannot be expected to question the judgment of the legislature that passed the law. Pp. 349-350.

(b) Application of the exclusionary rule cannot be justified on the basis of deterring legislative misconduct. Police, not legislators, are the focus of the rule. Furthermore, there is no evidence to suggest that legislatures are inclined to ignore or subvert the Fourth Amendment. There is also no indication that the exclusion of evidence seized pursuant to a statute subsequently declared unconstitutional would have a significant deterrent effect on the enactment of similar laws. Legislators

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enact statutes for broad programmatic purposes, not for the purpose of procuring evidence in particular cases. The greatest deterrent to unconstitutional enactments is the courts' power to invalidate such statutes. Even if the exclusionary rule provided some incremental deterrent, its benefit would be outweighed by the substantial social costs exacted by the rule. Pp. 350-353.

(c) The contention that the application of the exclusionary rule is required because large numbers of people are affected by a warrantless administrative search statute is not persuasive. Although the number of individuals affected may be considered in weighing the costs and benefits of applying the rule, the fact that many are affected will not require the rule's application if such application will not have a meaningful deterrent effect. P. 353.

(d) The contention that the exception to the exclusionary rule recognized here will discourage criminal defendants from presenting meritorious Fourth Amendment claims is also not persuasive. Defendants will always be able to argue in a suppression motion that the officer's reliance on the warrantless search statute was not objectively reasonable, and therefore was not in good faith. Furthermore, persons covered by a statute may bring an action seeking a declaration of the statute's unconstitutionality and an injunction barring its implementation. Pp. 353-354.

(e) Under the exception to the exclusionary rule recognized here, a statute cannot [107 S.Ct. 1163] support objectively reasonable reliance if, in passing it, the legislature wholly abandoned its responsibility to enact constitutional laws, or if the statutory provisions are such that a reasonable law enforcement officer should have known that the statute was unconstitutional. P. 355.

2. The detective's reliance on the Illinois statute was objectively reasonable. Even assuming that the statute was unconstitutional because it vested state officials with too much discretion, this constitutional defect would not have been obvious to a police officer acting in good faith. Pp. 356-360.

107 Ill.2d 107, 481 N.E.2d 703, reversed and remanded.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and WHITE, POWELL, and SCALIA, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 361. O'CONNOR, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 361.

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BLACKMUN, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.

In United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897 (1984), this Court ruled that the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule does not apply to evidence obtained by police officers who acted in objectively reasonable reliance upon a search warrant issued by a neutral magistrate, but where the warrant was ultimately found to be unsupported by probable cause. See also Massachusetts v. Sheppard, 468 U.S. 981 (1984). The present case presents the question whether a similar exception to the exclusionary rule should be recognized when officers act in objectively reasonable reliance upon a statute authorizing warrantless administrative searches, but where the statute is ultimately found to violate the Fourth Amendment.

I

The State of Illinois, as part of its Vehicle Code, has a comprehensive statutory scheme regulating the sale of motor vehicles and vehicular parts. See Ill.Rev.Stat., ch. 951/2, ¶¶ 5-100 to 5-801 (1985). A person who sells motor vehicles, or deals in automotive parts, or processes automotive scrap metal, or engages in a similar business must obtain a license from the Illinois Secretary of State. ¶¶ 5-101, 5-102, 5-301.

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A licensee is required to maintain a detailed record of all motor vehicles and parts that he purchases or sells, including the identification numbers of such vehicles and parts, and the dates of acquisition and disposition. ¶ 5-401.2. In 1981, the statute in its then form required a licensee to permit state officials to inspect these records "at any reasonable time during the night or day" and to allow

examination of the premises of the licensee's established place of business for the purpose of determining the accuracy of required records.

Ill.Rev.Stat., ch. 95 1/2, 115-401(e) (1981).1

Respondents in 1981 operated Action Iron & Metal, Inc., an automobile wrecking yard located in the city of Chicago. Detective Leilan K. McNally of the Chicago Police Department regularly inspected the records of wrecking yards pursuant to the state statute. Tr. 12.2 On the morning of July 5, 1981, he entered respondents' yard. Id. at 7. He identified himself as a police officer to respondent Lucas, who was working at the yard, and asked to see the [107 S.Ct. 1164] license and records of vehicle purchases. Lucas could not locate the license or records, but he did produce a paper pad on which approximately five vehicle purchases were listed. Id. at 25-26. McNally then requested and received permission from Lucas to look at the cars in the yard. Upon checking with his mobile computer the serial numbers of several of the vehicles, McNally ascertained that three of them were stolen. Also, the identification number of a fourth had been removed. McNally seized the four vehicles and placed Lucas under arrest. Id. at 8-9, 16-17. Respondent Krull, the holder of the license, and respondent Mucerino, who was present at the yard the day of the search, were arrested later. Respondents

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were charged with various criminal violations of the Illinois motor vehicle statutes.

The state trial court (the Circuit Court of Cook County) granted respondents' motion to suppress the evidence seized from the yard. App. 20-21. Respondents had relied on a federal court ruling, issued the day following the search, that 115-401(e), authorizing warrantless administrative searches of licensees, was unconstitutional. See Bionic Auto Parts & Sales, Inc. v. Fahner, 518 F.Supp. 582 (ND Ill. 1981), aff'd, in part, vacated in part, and remanded in part, 721 F.2d 1072

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(CA7 1983). The Federal District Court in that case had concluded that the statute permitted officers unbridled discretion in their searches and was therefore not "`a constitutionally adequate substitute for a warrant.'" 518 F.Supp. at 585-586, quoting Donovan v. Dewey, 452 U.S. 594, 603 (1981). The state trial court in the instant case agreed that the statute was invalid, and concluded that its unconstitutionality "affects all pending prosecutions not completed." App. 20. On that basis, the trial court granted respondents' motion to suppress the evidence. Id. at 20-21.3

The Appellate Court of Illinois, First Judicial District, vacated the trial court's ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings. Id. at 22. It observed that recent developments in the law indicated that Detective McNally's good faith reliance on the state statute might be relevant in assessing the admissibility of evidence, but that the trial court should first make a factual determination regarding McNally's good faith. Id. at 25. It also observed that the trial court might wish to reconsider its holding regarding the...

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