United States v. Peltier 8212 2000

Decision Date25 June 1975
Docket NumberNo. 73,73
Citation95 S.Ct. 2313,422 U.S. 531,45 L.Ed.2d 374
PartiesUNITED STATES, Petitioner, v. James Robert PELTIER. —2000
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

This Court's decision in Almeida-Sanchez v. United States, 413 U.S. 266, 93 S.Ct. 2535, 37 L.Ed.2d 596, which held that a warrantless automobile search, conducted about 25 air miles from the Mexican border by Border Patrol Agents acting without probable cause, contravened the Fourth Amendment, does not apply to Border Patrol searches like the one in this case, which, though concededly unconstitutional under Almeida-Sanchez standards, was conducted prior to June 21, 1973, the date of that decision. The policies underlying the exclusionary rule do not require retroactive application of Almeida-Sanchez where, as here, the agents were acting in reliance upon a federal statute supported by longstanding administrative regulations and continuous judicial approval. Pp. 535-542.

(9th Cir.) 500 F.2d 985, reversed.

William L. Patton, for petitioner.

Sandor W. Shapery, La Jolla, Cal., for respondent.

Mr. Justice REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

Four months before this Court's decision in Almeida-Sanchez v. United States, 413 U.S. 266, 93 S.Ct. 2535, 37 L.Ed.2d 596 (1973), respondent was stopped in his automobile by a roving border patrol, and three plastic garbage bags containing 270 pounds of marihuana were found in the trunk of his car by Border Patrol Agents. On the basis of this evidence an indictment was returned charging him with a violation of 84, Stat. 1260, 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). When respondent's motion to suppress the evidence was denied after a hearing, he stipulated in writing that he 'did knowingly and intentionally possess, with intent to distribute, the marijuana concealed in the 1962 Chevrolet which he was driving on February 28, 1973.'1 The District Court found respondent guilty and imposed sentence. On appeal from that judgment, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, sitting en banc, reversed the judgment on the ground that the 'rule announced by the Supreme Court in Almeida-Sanchez v. United States . . . should be applied to similar cases pending on appeal on the date the Supreme Court's decision was announced.' 500 F.2d 985, 986 (1974) (footnote omitted).2 We granted the Government's petition for certiorari. 419 U.S. 993, 95 S.Ct. 302, 42 L.Ed.2d 265 (1974).

In Almeida-Sanchez, supra, this Court held that a warrantless automobile search, conducted approximately 25 air miles from the Mexican border by Border Patrol agents, acting without probable cause, was uncon- stitutional under the Fourth Amendment.3 In this case the Government conceded in the Court of Appeals that the search of respondent's automobile approximately 70 air miles from the Mexican border and the seizure of the marihuana were unconstitutional under the standard announced in Almeida-Sanchez, but it contended that that standard should not be applied to searches conducted prior to June 21, 1973, the date of the decision in Almeida-Sanchez. In an inquiry preliminary to balancing the interests for and against retroactive application, see Stovall v. Denno, 388 U.S. 293, 297, 87 S.Ct. 1967, 1970, 18 L.Ed.2d 1199 (1967), the majority of the Court of Appeals first considered whether this Court had 'articulated a new doctrine' in Almeida-Sanchez, 500 F.2d, at 987. See, e.g., Chevron Oil Co. v. Huson, 404 U.S. 97, 106, 92 S.Ct. 349, 355, 30 L.Ed.2d 296 (1971); Milton v. Wainwright, 407 U.S. 371, 381—382, n. 2, 92 S.Ct. 2174, 2179—2180, 33 L.Ed.2d 1 (1972) (Stewart, J., dissenting). Concluding that Almeida-Sanchez overruled no prior decision of this Court and instead 'reaffirmed well-established Fourth Amendment standards' that did not 'disturb a long-accepted and relied-upon practice,' 500 F.2d, at 988, the Court of Appeals held:

'(Respondent) is entitled to the benefit of the rule announced in Almeida-Sanchez, not because of retroactivity but because of Fourth Amendment principles never deviated from by the Supreme Court.' Id., at 989.

The judgment of conviction was reversed, and the case was remanded to the District Court to suppress the evidence seized from respondent's automobile.

Although expressing some doubt about the applicability of the old law-new law test as a precondition to retroactivity analysis, id., at 990, the six dissenters joined issue with the majority over the proper interpretation of Almeida-Sanchez. The dissenters concluded that Almeida-Sanchez had announced a new constitutional rule because the decision overruled a consistent line of Courts of Appeals precedent and disrupted a long accepted and widely relied upon administrative practice. Border Patrol agents had conducted roving searches pursuant to congressional authorization, 66 Stat. 233, 8 U.S.C. § 1357(a)(3), and administrative regulation, 8 CFR § 287.1(a)(2) (1973), which had been continuously upheld until this Court's decision in Almeida-Sanchez. Since Almeida-Sanchez stated a new rule, the dissenters concluded that the applicability of that decision to pre-June 21, 1973, roving patrol vehicle searches should be determined by reference to the standards summarized in Stovall v. Denno, supra.4 For the reasons expressed in Part II of Judge Wallace's opinion in United States v. Bowen, 500 F.2d 960, 975—981 (CA9), cert. granted, 419 U.S. 824, 95 S.Ct. 40, 42 L.Ed.2d 47 (1974), the dissenters concluded that Almeida-Sanchez should be accorded prospective application.

Despite the conceded illegality of the search under the Almeida-Sanchez standard, the Government contends that the exclusionary rule should not be mechanically applied in the case now before us because the policies underlying the rule do not justify its retroactive application to pre-Almeida-Sanchez searches. We agree.


Since 1965 this Court has repeatedly struggled with the question of whether rulings in criminal cases should be given retroactive effect. In those cases '(w)here the major purpose of new constitutional doctrine is to overcome an aspect of the criminal trial that substantially impairs its truth-finding function and so raises serious questions about the accuracy of guilty verdicts in past trials,' Williams v. United States, 401 U.S. 646, 653, 91 S.Ct. 1148, 1152, 28 L.Ed.2d 388 (1971), the doctrine has quite often been applied retroactively. It is indisputable, however, that in every case in which the Court has addressed the retroactivity problem in the context of the exclusionary rule, whereby concededly relevant evidence is excluded in order to enforce a constitutional guarantee that does not relate to the integrity of the factfinding process, the Court has concluded that any such new constitutional principle would be accorded only prospective application.5 Linkletter v. Walker, 381 U.S. 618, 85 S.Ct. 1731, 14 L.Ed.2d 601 (1965); Johnson v. New Jersey, 384 U.S. 719, 86 S.Ct. 1772, 16 L.Ed.2d 882 (1966); Stovall v. Denno, supra; Fuller v. Alaska, 393 U.S. 80, 89 S.Ct. 61, 21 L.Ed.2d 212 (1968); Desist v. United States 394 U.S. 244, 89 S.Ct. 1030, 22 L.Ed.2d 248 (1969); Jenkins v. Delaware, 395 U.S. 213, 89 S.Ct. 1677, 23 L.Ed.2d 253 (1969); Williams v. United States, supra; Hill v. California, 401 U.S. 797, 91 S.Ct. 1106, 28 L.Ed.2d 484 (1971).

We think that these cases tell us a great deal about the nature of the exclusionary rule, as well as something about the nature of retroactivity analysis. Decisions of this Court applying the exclusionary rule to unconstitutionally seized evidence have referred to 'the imperative of judicial integrity,' Elkins v. United States, 364 U.S. 206, 222, 80 S.Ct. 1437, 1446, 4 L.Ed.2d 1669 (1960), although the Court has relied principally upon the deterrent purpose served by the exclusionary rule. See Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 81 S.Ct. 1684, 6 L.Ed.2d 1081 (1961); Lee v. Florida, 392 U.S. 378, 88 S.Ct. 2096, 20 L.Ed.2d 1166 (1968); See also United States v. Calandra, 414 U.S. 338, 94 S.Ct. 613, 38 L.Ed.2d 561 (1974); Michigan v. Tucker, 417 U.S. 433, 94 S.Ct. 2357, 41 L.Ed.2d 182 (1974). And see also Oaks, Studying the Exclusionary Rule in Search and Seizure, 37 U.Chi.L.Rev. 665, 668 672 (1970).

When it came time to consider whether those decisions would be applied retroactively, however, the Court recognized that the introduction of evidence which had been seized by law enforcement officials in good-faith compliance with then-prevailing constitutional norms did not make the courts 'accomplices in the willful disobedience of a Constitution they are sworn to uphold.' Elkins v. United States, supra, 364 U.S., at 223, 80 S.Ct. at 1447. Thus, while the 'imperative of judicial integrity' played a role in this Court's decision to overrule Wolf v. Colorado, 338 U.S. 25, 69 S.Ct. 1359, 93 L.Ed. 1782 (1949), see Mapp v. Ohio, supra, 367 U.S., at 659, 81 S.Ct. at 1693, the Mapp decision was not applied retroactively: 'Rather than being abhorrent at the time of seizure in this case, the use in state trials of illegally seized evidence had been specifically authorized by this Court in Wolf.' Linkletter v. Walker, supra, 381 U.S., at 638, 85 S.Ct., at 1742 (footnote omitted). Similarly, in Lee v. Florida, supra, this Court overruled Schwartz v. Texas, 344 U.S. 199, 73 S.Ct. 232, 97 L.Ed. 231 (1952), and held that evidence seized in violation of § 605 of the Federal Communica- tions Act of 1934, 48 Stat. 1103, 47 U.S.C. § 605, by state officers could not be introduced into evidence at state criminal trials:

'(T)he decision we reach today is not based upon language and doctrinal symmetry alone. It is buttressed as well by the 'imperative of judicial integrity.' Elkins v. United States, 364 U.S. 206, 222, (80 S.Ct. 1437, 1446, 4 L.Ed.2d 1669). Under our Constitution no court, state or federal, may serve as an accomplice in the willful transgression of 'the Laws of the United States,' laws by which 'the Judges in every State (are) bound . . .." 392 U.S., at 385—386, 88 S.Ct. at...

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