United States v. Johnson, 80-1608

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation457 U.S. 537,73 L.Ed.2d 202,102 S.Ct. 2579
Docket NumberNo. 80-1608,80-1608
PartiesUNITED STATES, Petitioner v. Raymond Eugene JOHNSON
Decision Date21 June 1982

457 U.S. 537
102 S.Ct. 2579
73 L.Ed.2d 202


Raymond Eugene JOHNSON.

No. 80-1608.
Argued Feb. 24, 1982.
Decided June 21, 1982.

Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 100 S.Ct. 1371, 63 L.Ed.2d 639, held that the Fourth Amendment prohibits the police from making a warrantless and nonconsensual entry into a suspect's home to make a routine felony arrest. Before Payton was decided, respondent was arrested on a federal charge by Secret Service agents who had entered his home without an arrest warrant. Subsequently, the Federal District Court denied respondent's pretrial motion to suppress incriminating statements he made after his arrest. This evidence was admitted at his trial and he was convicted. While his case was still pending on direct appeal, Payton was decided. On the strength of Payton, the Court of Appeals reversed the conviction, holding that Payton applied retroactively.

Held : A decision of this Court construing the Fourth Amendment is to be applied retroactively to all convictions that were not yet final at the time the decision was rendered, except where a case would be clearly controlled by existing retroactivity precedents. Hence, Payton is to be applied retroactively to respondent's case. Pp. 542-563.

(a) Respondent's case does not present a retrospectivity problem clearly controlled by existing precedent. Where a decision of this Court merely has applied settled principles to a new set of facts, it has been a foregone conclusion that the rule of the later case applies in earlier cases. Conversely, where the Court has declared a rule of criminal procedure to be "a clear break with the past," it almost invariably has found the new principle nonretroactive. Also, this Court has recognized full retroactivity as a necessary adjunct to a ruling that a trial court lacked authority to convict or punish the defendant in the first place. Respondent's case does not fit any of these categories, as Payton did not apply settled precedent to a new set of facts, did not announce an entirely new and unanticipated principle of law, and did not hold either that the trial court lacked authority to convict Payton or that the Fourth Amendment immunized his conduct from punishment. Pp. 548-554

(b) The retroactivity question presented here is fairly resolved by applying the Payton rule to all cases still pending on direct appeal at the time Payton was decided. To do so (1) provides a principle of decisionmaking consonant with this Court's original understanding in Linkletter

Page 538

v. Walker, 381 U.S. 618, 85 S.Ct. 1731, 14 L.Ed.2d 601, and Tehan v. United States ex rel. Shott, 382 U.S. 406, 86 S.Ct. 459, 15 L.Ed.2d 453, that all newly declared constitutional rules of criminal procedure would apply retrospectively at least to convictions not yet final when the rule was established; (2) comports with this Court's judicial responsibility "to do justice to each litigant on the merits of his own case," Desist v. United States, 394 U.S. 244, 259, 89 S.Ct. 1030, 1039, 22 L.Ed.2d 248 (Harlan, J., dissenting), and to "resolve all cases before us on direct review in light of our best understanding of governing constitutional principles," Mackey v. United States, 401 U.S. 667, 679, 91 S.Ct. 1160, 1173, 28 L.Ed.2d 404 (separate opinion of Harlan, J.); and (3) furthers the goal of treating similarly situated defendants similarly. Pp. 554-556.

(c) There is no merit to the Government's arguments, based on United States v. Peltier, 422 U.S. 531, 95 S.Ct. 2313, 45 L.Ed.2d 374, against adoption of the above approach to the retroactivity question in this case. Pp. 557-562

9 Cir., 626 F.2d 753, affirmed.

Elliott Schulder, Washington, D. C., for petitioner.

John F. Walter, Los Angeles, Cal., for respondent.

Justice BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.

In Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 100 S.Ct. 1371, 63 L.Ed.2d 639 (1980), this Court held that the Fourth Amendment 1 prohibits the police from making a warrantless and nonconsensual entry into a sus-

Page 539

pect's home to make a routine felony arrest. The question before us in the present case is whether the rule announced in Payton applies to an arrest that took place before Payton was decided.


Special Agents Hemenway and Pickering of the United States Secret Service suspected respondent Raymond Eugene Johnson and his codefendant, Oscar Joseph Dodd, of attempting to negotiate a misdelivered United States Treasury check.2 Proceeding without an arrest warrant, on May 5, 1977, the two agents went to respondent's Los Angeles home and waited outside. Shortly thereafter, respondent and his wife arrived and entered the house.

The agents drew their weapons, approached the doorway and knocked, identifying themselves by fictitious names. When respondent opened the door, he saw the two agents with their guns drawn and their badges raised. Respondent permitted the agents to enter the house. While one agent stood with respondent in the living room, the other searched the premises. The agents then advised respondent of his constitutional rights and interrogated him. When respondent revealed his involvement in the taking of the misdelivered check, the agents formally arrested him. Respondent later signed a written statement admitting his involvement with the check.

Before trial, respondent sought to suppress his oral and written statements as fruits of an unlawful arrest not sup-

Page 540

ported by probable cause. The United States District Court for the Central District of California found respondent's arrest to be proper and admitted the evidence. App. 7. A jury then convicted respondent of aiding and abetting obstruction of correspondence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2 and 1702.3 The imposition of respondent's sentence was suspended in favor of five years' probation.

By an unreported opinion filed December 19, 1978, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the judgment of conviction. Acknowledging that "[i]t certainly would have been preferable had the agents obtained a warrant" for respondent's arrest before entering his residence, the court nonetheless ruled that "if probable cause exists for the arrest, [respondent's] constitutional rights were not violated by the warrantless arrest, even though there may have been time [for the agents] to have obtained a warrant for his arrest." App. to Pet. for Cert. 26a-27a.

On April 15, 1980, while respondent's petition for rehearing was still pending before the Ninth Circuit, this Court decided Payton v. New York, supra.4 On September 2,

Page 541

1980, the Ninth Circuit granted respondent's petition for rehearing, withdrew its prior opinion, and on the strength of Payton, now reversed the judgment of conviction. 626 F.2d 753. "In light of the strong language by the Court in Payton emphasizing the special protection the Constitution affords to individuals within their homes," the Court of Appeals held that "the warrantless arrest of Johnson, while he stood within his home, after having opened the door in response to false identification by the agents, constituted a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights." Id., at 757. The Government petitioned for rehearing, arguing that the principles of Payton should not apply retroactively to an arrest that had occurred before Payton was decided. The Court of Appeals disagreed, denied the petition for rehearing, and amended its opinion to clarify that Payton did apply retroactively. App. to Pet. for Cert. 12a.5

The Government sought review in this Court. We granted certiorari to consider the retrospective effect, if any, of the Fourth Amendment rule announced in Payton. 454 U.S. 814, 102 S.Ct. 89, 70 L.Ed.2d 82 (1981).6

Page 542


"[T]he federal constitution has no voice upon the subject" of retrospectivity. Great Northern R. Co. v. Sunburst Oil & Refining Co., 287 U.S. 358, 364, 53 S.Ct. 145, 148, 77 L.Ed. 360 (1932). Before 1965, when this Court decided Linkletter v. Walker, 381 U.S. 618, 85 S.Ct. 1731, 14 L.Ed.2d 601, "both the common law and our own decisions recognized a general rule of retrospective effect for the constitutional decisions of this Court . . . subject to [certain] limited exceptions." Robinson v. Neil, 409 U.S. 505, 507, 93 S.Ct. 876, 877, 35 L.Ed.2d 29 (1973), citing Norton v. Shelby County, 118 U.S. 425, 442, 6 S.Ct. 1121, 1125, 30 L.Ed. 178 (1886), and Chicot County Drainage Dist. v. Baxter State Bank, 308 U.S. 371, 60 S.Ct. 317, 84 L.Ed. 329 (1940).7

In Linkletter, however, the Court concluded "that the Constitution neither prohibits nor requires [that] retrospective effect" be given to any "new" constitutional rule. 381 U.S., at 629, 85 S.Ct., at 1737. Since Linkletter, the Court's announcement of a constitutional rule in the realm of criminal procedure has frequently been followed by a separate decision explaining whether, and to what extent, that rule applies to past, pending, and future cases. See generally Beytagh, Ten Years of Non-Retroactivity: A Critique and a Proposal, 61 Va.L.Rev. 1557 (1975).

Linkletter itself addressed the question whether the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule of Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 81 S.Ct. 1684, 6 L.Ed.2d 1081 (1961), should apply to state convictions that had become final before Mapp was decided.8 At the outset, the Linkletter Court noted that cases still pending on direct review when Mapp was handed down had already received the

Page 543

benefit of Mapp's rule. See 381 U.S., at 622, n. 4, 85 S.Ct., at 1734, n. 4, citing Ker v. California, 374 U.S. 23, 83 S.Ct. 1623, 10 L.Ed.2d 726 (1963); Fahy v. Connecticut, 375 U.S. 85, 84 S.Ct. 229, 11 L.Ed.2d 171 (1963); and Stoner v. California, 376 U.S. 483 (1964). This limited retrospective application of Mapp was consistent with the common-law rule, recognized in both civil and criminal litigation, "that a change in law will be given effect while a case is on direct...

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