547 U.S. 90 (2006), 04-1414, United States v. Grubbs

Docket Nº:No. 04-1414.
Citation:547 U.S. 90, 126 S.Ct. 1494, 164 L.Ed.2d 195
Party Name:UNITED STATES, Petitioner, v. Jeffrey GRUBBS.
Case Date:March 21, 2006
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 90

547 U.S. 90 (2006)

126 S.Ct. 1494, 164 L.Ed.2d 195

UNITED STATES, Petitioner,


Jeffrey GRUBBS.

No. 04-1414.

United States Supreme Court

March 21, 2006

Argued Jan. 18, 2006.


[126 S.Ct. 1495] Syllabus [*]

A Magistrate Judge issued an "anticipatory" search warrant for respondent [126 S.Ct. 1496] Grubbs' house based on a

federal officer's affidavit. The affidavit explained that the warrant would not be executed until a parcel containing a videotape of child pornography--which Grubbs had ordered from an undercover postal inspector--was received at, and physically taken into, the residence. The affidavit also referred to two attachments describing the residence and the items to be seized. After the package was delivered and the search commenced, Grubbs was given a copy of the warrant, which included the attachments but not the supporting affidavit. When he admitted ordering the videotape, he was arrested, and the videotape and other items were seized. Following his indictment for receiving child pornography, see 18 U.S.C. §2252(a)(2), Grubbs moved to suppress the seized evidence, arguing, inter alia, that the warrant was invalid because it failed to list the triggering condition. The District Court denied the motion, and Grubbs pleaded guilty. The Ninth Circuit reversed, concluding that the warrant ran afoul of the Fourth Amendment's particularity requirement, which, under Circuit precedent, applied to the conditions precedent to an anticipatory warrant.


1. Anticipatory warrants are not categorically unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment's provision that "no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause." Probable cause exists when "there is a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place." Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238, 103 S.Ct. 2317, 76 L.Ed.2d 527. When an anticipatory warrant is issued, the fact that the contraband is not presently at the place described is immaterial, so long as there is probable cause to believe it will be there when the warrant is executed. Anticipatory warrants are, therefore, no different in principle from ordinary warrants: They require the magistrate to determine (1) that it is now probable that (2) contraband, evidence of a crime, or a fugitive will be on the described premises (3) when the warrant is executed. Where the anticipatory warrant places a condition (other than the mere passage of time) upon its execution, the first of these determinations goes not

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merely to what will probably be found if the condition is met, but also to the likelihood that the condition will be met, and thus that a proper object of seizure will be on the described premises. Here, the occurrence of the triggering condition— successful delivery of the videotape—would plainly establish probable cause for the search, and the affidavit established probable cause to believe the triggering condition would be satisfied. Pp. 1498-1500.

2. The warrant at issue did not violate the Fourth Amendment's particularity requirement. The Amendment specifies only two matters that the warrant must "particularly describ[e]": "the place to be searched" and "the persons or things to be seized." That language is decisive here; the particularity requirement does not include the conditions precedent to execution of the warrant. Cf. Dalia v. United States, 441 U.S. 238, 255, 257, 99 S.Ct. 1682, 60 L.Ed.2d 177. Respondent's two policy rationales— that setting forth the triggering condition in the warrant itself is necessary (1) to delineate the limits of the executing officer's power and (2) to allow the individual whose property is searched or seized to police the officer's conduct—find no basis in either the Fourth Amendment or Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41. Pp. 1500-1502.

[126 S.Ct. 1497] 377 F.3d 1072 and 389 F.3d 1306, reversed and remanded.

SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C.J., and KENNEDY, THOMAS, and BREYER, JJ., joined, and in which STEVENS, SOUTER, and GINSBURG, J., joined as to Parts I and II. SOUTER, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which STEVENS and GINSBURG, JJ., joined. ALITO, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.


Michael R. Dreeben, for petitioner.

Mark J. Reichel, for respondent.

Paul D. Clement, Solicitor General, Counsel of Record, Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., for United States.

Jeffrey T. Green, Norina Irani Edelman Sidley Austin Brown & Wood LLP, Washington, DC, Mark J. Reichel, Counsel of Record, Linda C. Harter, Assistant Federal Defenders for the Eastern District of California, Sacramento, CA, for Respondent.

Paul D. Clement, Solicitor General, Counsel of Record, Alice S. Fisher, Assistant Attorney General, Michael R. Dreeben, Deputy Solicitor General, Dan Himmelfarb, Assistant to the Solicitor General, Elizabeth A. Olson, Attorney, Department of Justice, Washington, DC, for the United States.


Scalia, Justice.

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Federal law enforcement officers obtained a search warrant for respondent's house on the basis of an affidavit explaining that the warrant would be executed only after a controlled delivery of contraband to that location. We address two challenges to the constitutionality of this anticipatory warrant.


Respondent Jeffrey Grubbs purchased a videotape containing child pornography from a Web site operated by an undercover postal inspector. Officers from the Postal Inspection Service arranged a controlled delivery of a package containing the videotape to Grubbs' residence. A postal inspector submitted a search warrant application to a Magistrate Judge for the Eastern District of California, accompanied by an affidavit describing the proposed operation in detail. The affidavit stated:

"Execution of this search warrant will not occur unless and until the parcel has been received by a person(s) and has been physically taken into the residence .... At that time, and not before, this search warrant will be executed by me and other United States Postal inspectors, with appropriate assistance from other law enforcement officers in accordance with this warrant's command." App. to Pet. for Cert. 72a.

In addition to describing this triggering condition, the affidavit referred to two attachments, which described Grubbs' residence and the items officers would seize. These attachments, but not the body of the affidavit, were incorporated into the requested warrant. The affidavit concluded:

"Based upon the foregoing facts, I respectfully submit there exists probable cause to believe that the items set forth in Attachment B to this affidavit and the search warrant, will be found [at Grubbs' residence], which residence is [126 S.Ct. 1498] further described at Attachment A." Ibid.

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The Magistrate Judge issued the warrant as requested. Two days later, an undercover postal inspector delivered the package. Grubbs' wife signed for it and took the unopened package inside. The inspectors detained...

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