RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Warehouse in South Boston
DOCKET NO.: 86-995
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
CITATION: 487 US 533 (1988)
ARGUED: Dec 08, 1987
DECIDED: Jun 27, 1988
A. Raymond Randolph Jr. - for petitioners
Roy T. Englert, Jr. - ON BEHALF OF RESPONDENT
Facts of the case
On April 6, 1983, federal law enforcement agents tailing Michael F. Murray and James D. Carter for suspicion of illegal drug activities saw the two drive large vehicles into a warehouse in South Boston. When Murray and Carter left, the agents saw a tractor-trailer rig and a large container. The agents arrested Murray and Carter and lawfully seized their vehicles, which contained marijuana. Several agents then returned to the warehouse, forced entry without a search warrant, and found numerous wrapped bales of what was later confirmed to be marijuana. The agents did not disturb the bales and kept the warehouse under surveillance until they obtained a search warrant. In applying for the search warrant, the agents did not mention the unwarranted entry or the information they had obtained. Approximately eight hours later, the agents obtained the warrant, entered the warehouse, and seized the bales along with the notebooks indicating the destinations of the marijuana.
Before the trial, Murray and Carter moved to suppress the evidence discovered in the warehouse and argued that the warrant was invalid because it was based on information obtained in the previous unwarranted entry. The district court denied the motion and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed.
Does the Fourth Amendment require the suppression of evidence viewed in plain sight prior to an illegal entry that was later discovered in the course of a properly warranted search?
Media for Murray v. United StatesAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 08, 1987 in Murray v. United States
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 27, 1988 in Murray v. United States
The second consolidated case is Murray versus United States and Carter versus United States come to us by writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.
Both cases arise from the same incident.
Federal agents witnessed petitioner's drive trucks which they believed to contain marijuana in and out of a warehouse in Boston.
The agents eventually stopped the trucks, found them to contain marijuana and arrested petitioners and their accomplices.
The agents then returned to the warehouse and entered it without a warrant.
They saw in plain view numerous large bales of marijuana and other evidence of crime.
After about five minutes, they left the warehouse and did not return until they secured a search warrant.
They searched the warehouse and seized the evidence.
The question presented is whether the evidence seen by the agents during the initial search which we assume was illegal must be suppressed even though it was later discovered during the search pursuant to the warrant.
The Court of Appeals held that it need not be.
In our opinion filed today, we reaffirm what has come to be known as the "independent source" doctrine which is a corollary of the exclusionary rule where evidence is discovered illegally but is later rediscovered pursuant to a lawful means that is wholly independent of the unlawful means, the evidence should not be excluded.
In this case, that means that if the information gained from the illegal initial entry did not effect either the agent's decision to seek a warrant or the magistrate's decision to issue a warrant, then the second search derived from a genuinely independent source and the evidence is not excludable because we are not convinced from the record, however, whether the warrant at issue here was independent in the sense we have described.
We remand to the Court of Appeals with instructions to remand to the District Court to make this determination.
Justice Marshall has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justices Stevens and O'Connor joined.
Justice Stevens has also filed a separate dissent.
Justices Brennan and Kennedy took no part.