Rios v. United States, No. 52

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtSTEWART
Citation80 S.Ct. 1431,4 L.Ed.2d 1688,364 U.S. 253
Docket NumberNo. 52
Decision Date27 June 1960
PartiesJose Terrones RIOS, Petitioner, v. UNITED STATES of America

364 U.S. 253
80 S.Ct. 1431
4 L.Ed.2d 1688
Jose Terrones RIOS, Petitioner,

v.

UNITED STATES of America.

No. 52.
Argued March 29, 1960.
Decided June 27, 1960.

Page 254

Mr. Harvey M. Grossman, Los Angeles, Cal., for petitioner.

Mr. Malcolm Richard Wilkey, Washington, D.C., for respondent.

Mr. Justice STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

An indictment filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California charged the petitioner with unlawful receipt and concealment of narcotics in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 174, 21 U.S.C.A. § 174. Before trial the petitioner made a motion to suppress for use as evidence a package of heroin which, so a California court had found, Los Angeles police officers had obtained from the petitioner in an unconstitutional search and seizure. After a hearing the District Court denied the motion to suppress, finding that federal agents had not participated in the search, and finding also that the California officers had obtained the evidence in a lawful manner. The package of narcotics was admitted in evidence over the petitioner's renewed objection at his subsequent trial. He was convicted and sentenced to twenty years in prison.

Page 255

The Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction, accepting the District Court's finding that the seizure had been lawful, and holding that in any event illegally seized evidence 'may nevertheless be received in a federal prosecution, if the seizure was made without the participation of federal officials.' 256 F.2d 173, at page 176. Certiorari was granted in an order which limited the questions for consideration to two, 359 U.S. 965, 79 S.Ct. 881, 3 L.Ed.2d 833:

'1. Independently of the state court's determination, was the evidence used against petitioner in the federal prosecution obtained in violation of his rights under the Constitution of the United States?

'2. If the evidence was unlawfully obtained, was such evidence admissible in the federal prosecution of petitioner because it was obtained by state officers without federal participation?'

In Elkins v. United States, 364 U.S. 206, 80 S.Ct. 1437, the Court has answered the second question by holding that evidence seized in an unreasonable search by state officers is to be excluded from a federal criminal trial upon the timely objection of a defendant who has standing to complain. The only question that remains in this case, therefore, is whether the Los Angeles officers obtained the package of heroin 'during a search which, if conducted by federal officers, would have violated the defendant's immunity from unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment.' 364 U.S. at page 223, 80 S.Ct. at page 1447. As in most cases involving a claimed unconstitutional search and seizure, resolution of the question requires a particularized evaluation of the conduct of the officers involved. See Go-Bart Importing Co. v. United States, 282 U.S. 344, 357, 51 S.Ct. 153, 158, 75 L.Ed. 374.

At about ten o'clock on the night of February 18, 1957, two Los Angeles police officers, dressed in plain clothes and riding in an unmarked car, observed a taxicab stand-

Page 256

ing in a parking lot next to an apartment house at the corner of First and Flower Streets in Los Angeles. The neighborhood had a reputation for 'narcotics activity.' The officers saw the petitioner look up and down the street, walk across the lot, and get into the cab. Neither officer had ever before seen the petitioner, and neither of them had any idea of his identity. Except for the reputation of the neighborhood, neither officer had received information of any kind to suggest that someone might be engaged in criminal activity at that time and place. They were not searching for a participant in any previous crime. They were in possession of no arrest or search warrants.

The taxicab drove away, and the officers followed it in their car for a distance of about two miles through the city. At the intersection of First and State Streets the cab stopped for a traffic light. The two officers alighted from their car and approached on foot to opposite sides of the cab. One of the officers identified himself as a policeman. In the next minute there occurred a rapid succession of events. The cab door was opened; the petitioner dropped a recognizable package of narcotics to the floor of the vehicle; one of the officers grabbed the petitioner as he alighted from the cab; the other officer retrieved the package; and the first officer drew his revolver.1

The precise chronology of all that happened is not clear in the record. In their original arrest report the police stated that the petitioner dropped the package only after one of the officers had opened the cab door. In testifying later, this officer said that he saw the defendant drop the package before the door of the cab was opened. The taxi

Page 257

driver gave a substantially different version of what occurred. He stated that one of the officers drew his revolver and 'took hold of the defendant's arm while he was still in the cab.'2

Page 258

A state criminal prosecution was instituted against the petitioner, charging him with possession of narcotics, a felony under California law. Cal. Health and Safety Code, § 11500. At a preliminary hearing the two Los Angeles officers testified as to the circumstances surrounding the arrest and seizure. When the case came on for trial in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, the petitioner moved to suppress as evidence the package of heroin which the police had seized. On the basis of the transcript of the preliminary hearing, and after brief argument by counsel, the court granted the motion and entered a judgment of acquittal.3

Page 259

Thereafter, one of the Los Angeles officers who had arrested the petitioner discussed the case with his superiors and suggested giving the evidence to United States authorities. He then got in touch with federal narcotics agents and told them about the petitioner's case. This led to the federal prosecution we now review.4

Page 260

In holding that the package of heroin which had been seized by the state officers was admissible as evidence in the federal trial, the District Court placed prime reliance upon the silver platter doctrine, there having been no participation by federal agents in the search and seizure. But the court also expressed the opinion, based upon the transcript of the state court proceedings and additional testimony of the two Los Angeles police officers at the hearing on the motion to suppress, that the officers had obtained the evidence lawfully. The court was of the view that the seizure was permissible as an incident to a legal arrest, or, alternatively, that the petitioner had abandoned the narcotics when he dropped them to the floor of the taxicab. At the time this opinion was expressed, however, the district judge had not yet heard the taxicab driver's version of the circumstances surrounding the arrest and seizure. The driver did not testify until the trial itself. After he had testified, the package of heroin was offered in evidence. The petitioner's counsel objected, and the court overruled the objection without comment. See Gouled v. United States, 255 U.S. 298, 312—313, 41 S.Ct. 261, 266, 65...

To continue reading

Request your trial
489 practice notes
  • U.S. v. Williams, No. 85-6082
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • July 7, 1987
    ...brought it within one of the exceptions to the rule that a search must rest upon a search warrant' ") (quoting Rios v. United States, 364 U.S. 253, 261, 80 S.Ct. 1431, 1436, 4 L.Ed.2d 1688, 1693 (1960)); United States v. Lyons, supra note 66, 227 U.S.App.D.C. at 292, 706 F.2d at 329; C. Whi......
  • U.S. v. Sotomayor, Nos. 1031
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • February 2, 1979
    ...who may have violated state law. Preston v. United States, 376 U.S. 364, 366, 84 S.Ct. 881, 11 L.Ed.2d 777 (1964); Rios v. United States, 364 U.S. 253, 255, 261, 80 S.Ct. 14-31, 4 L.Ed.2d 1688 (1960); Elkins v. United States, 364 U.S. 206, 223-24, 80 S.Ct. 1437, 4 L.Ed.2d 1669 (1960); Unite......
  • Reid v. Pautler, No. CIV 13-0337 JB/KBM
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • July 31, 2014
    ...he seeks to preserve as private, even in an area accessible to the public, may be constitutionally protected. See Rios v. United States, 364 U.S. 253 . . . [1960]; Ex parte Jackson, 96 U.S. 727, 733 . . . [1877].Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. at 351-52. The Supreme Court appears to have ch......
  • Di Bella v. United States, No. 349
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • November 23, 1960
    ...dispense with the need for probable cause." (Emphasis supplied.) 361 U.S. 98, 104, 80 S.Ct. 168, 172. Accord, Rios v. United States, 1960, 364 U.S. 253, 80 S.Ct. 1431, 4 L.Ed.2d 1688. See Eng Fung Jem v. United States, 9 Cir., 1960, 281 F.2d 803. Moreover, in cases where arrests without war......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
487 cases
  • U.S. v. Williams, No. 85-6082
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • July 7, 1987
    ...brought it within one of the exceptions to the rule that a search must rest upon a search warrant' ") (quoting Rios v. United States, 364 U.S. 253, 261, 80 S.Ct. 1431, 1436, 4 L.Ed.2d 1688, 1693 (1960)); United States v. Lyons, supra note 66, 227 U.S.App.D.C. at 292, 706 F.2d at 329; C. Whi......
  • U.S. v. Sotomayor, Nos. 1031
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • February 2, 1979
    ...who may have violated state law. Preston v. United States, 376 U.S. 364, 366, 84 S.Ct. 881, 11 L.Ed.2d 777 (1964); Rios v. United States, 364 U.S. 253, 255, 261, 80 S.Ct. 14-31, 4 L.Ed.2d 1688 (1960); Elkins v. United States, 364 U.S. 206, 223-24, 80 S.Ct. 1437, 4 L.Ed.2d 1669 (1960); Unite......
  • Reid v. Pautler, No. CIV 13-0337 JB/KBM
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • July 31, 2014
    ...he seeks to preserve as private, even in an area accessible to the public, may be constitutionally protected. See Rios v. United States, 364 U.S. 253 . . . [1960]; Ex parte Jackson, 96 U.S. 727, 733 . . . [1877].Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. at 351-52. The Supreme Court appears to have ch......
  • Di Bella v. United States, No. 349
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • November 23, 1960
    ...dispense with the need for probable cause." (Emphasis supplied.) 361 U.S. 98, 104, 80 S.Ct. 168, 172. Accord, Rios v. United States, 1960, 364 U.S. 253, 80 S.Ct. 1431, 4 L.Ed.2d 1688. See Eng Fung Jem v. United States, 9 Cir., 1960, 281 F.2d 803. Moreover, in cases where arrests without war......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • A SOLUTION FOR THE THIRD-PARTY DOCTRINE IN A TIME OF DATA SHARING, CONTACT TRACING, AND MASS SURVEILLANCE.
    • United States
    • Notre Dame Law Review Vol. 97 Nbr. 2, January 2022
    • January 1, 2022
    ...v. United States, 385 U.S. 206, 210 (1966); then citing United States v. Lee, 274 U.S. 559, 563 (1927); then citing Rios v. United States, 364 U.S. 253 (1960); and then citing Ex parte Jackson, 96 U.S. 727, 733 (61) Under the correct Katzian analysis, both cases likely would have come out d......
  • Testing Judicial Power
    • United States
    • American Politics Research Nbr. 43-1, January 2015
    • January 1, 2015
    ...Strategic anticipation and the hierarchy of justice in U.S. District Courts. American Politics Research, 36, 669-693.Rios v. U.S. (1960). 364 U.S. 253.Rosenberg, G. N. (2008). The hollow hope: Can courts bring about social change? (2nd ed.). Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press.Rusche, G.,......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT