LOCATION: Residence of Gates
DOCKET NO.: 81-2169
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
CITATION: 462 US 306 (1983)
ARGUED: Apr 20, 1983
DECIDED: Jun 13, 1983
David R. Lasso - on behalf of the Petitioners
Norman A. Townsend - on behalf of the Respondent
Facts of the case
Media for Haring v. Prosise
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 20, 1983 in Haring v. Prosise
Warren E. Burger:
We will hear arguments next in Haring against Prosise.
Mr. Lasso, you may proceed when you are ready.
David R. Lasso:
Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, this case presents the issue of whether a person who pleaded guilty in state court to making illegal drugs and who did not raise the validity of the search that produced the essential evidence of that crime can later bring an action under 42 United States Code Section 1983 claiming that that same search was unconstitutional.
The issue in this case can be stated perhaps even more narrowly.
Can the 1983 action be brought even though the Respondent, Mr. Prosise, had numerous opportunities to raise the validity of that search in the state court?
Can he bring this action even though he has never claimed that he had inadequate counsel?
And can he do so even under the circumstances where he tried to withdraw his guilty plea, claim his innocence, and even then not raise the validity of the search?
The error of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is that it adopts as a policy--
William H. Rehnquist:
Mr. Lasso, I take it there was no motion to suppress in the Circuit Court.
David R. Lasso:
--That is correct, Justice Rehnquist.
At no time was there a motion to suppress.
As a policy matter, the Fourth Circuit has adopted a rule which encourages the accused to bypass the very state processes which are designed to protect the important constitutional rights embodied in the Fourth Amendment.
In effect, the Fourth Circuit has sanctioned a rule which allows the abuse of those state processes.
That kind of flat rule of non-preclusion does not advance concerns of finality of judgment, conservation of judicial resources, avoidance of vexatious litigation, and it certainly does not further any interest of federal-state comity.
Now, the essential facts in this case are very straightforward.
Mr. Prosise entered into a plea agreement with the commonwealth.
He agreed to plead guilty to the manufacturing of phencyclidine, or... also called PCP or angel dust, in exchange for the dropping of a charge of possession of PCP.
During the guilty plea hearing, which included testimony from Detective Allen, who conducted the search and obtained the warrant, and all the evidence that he found, the trial judge said, and I quote, very briefly,
"The court finds there is a sufficient factual basis, and upon the evidence heard this morning the court finds the defendant guilty of the manufacture of phenclyclidine as charged in the indictment. "
Now, over a month later, the sentencing hearing took place.
During the sentencing hearing, Mr. Prosise testified in his own behalf and began to claim his innocence.
He claimed that there was one essential drug not found in his apartment that would produce PCP.
Therefore he was innocent.
The trial judge said,
"I will consider this as a motion to withdraw the guilty plea. "
He said, "I will deny the motion".
Quoting again, very briefly, the judge said,
"The commonwealth had a good, strong case that formed the factual basis for the plea. "
"It was quite clear if the defendant had been exposed to trial, he would have been convicted by a jury. "
Again, at no time was a motion to suppress ever made, and the lower court never mentions the crucial importance that this search played in the conviction of Mr. Prosise.