Scott v. United States

RESPONDENT:United States
LOCATION:Channel Islands National Park

DOCKET NO.: 76-6767
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

CITATION: 436 US 128 (1978)
ARGUED: Mar 01, 1978
DECIDED: May 15, 1978

John A. Shorter, Jr. – for petitioners
Richard A. Allen – for respondent

Facts of the case


Media for Scott v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – March 01, 1978 in Scott v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – May 15, 1978 in Scott v. United States

William H. Rehnquist:

The second of the cases is number 76-6767, Scott against United States.

It involves criminal convictions which were affirmed by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit.

Government agents obtained judicial authorization under Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to conduct a wiretap, at a residence in the Washington DC area in connection with the suspected drug conspiracy.

The agents were required under the terms of both of the statute and the Court authorization to conduct the wiretap in such a way as to minimize the interception of communications not otherwise subject interception under Title III.

During a one month period the agents intercepted virtually all conversations over the tapped phone.

On petitioner’s motion that is the defendant in the case, the District Court ordered the suppression of all intercepted conversations and evidence which had been derived from those conversations relying largely on the fact that the agents had in his opinion made no attempt to comply with the minimization order.

The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded.

It held that the first inquiry should not have been the subjective intent of the agents, but rather the reasonablenesses measured by an objective standard of the actual interceptions and that under that standard there was no statutory or constitutional violation.

Upon remand the petitioners were convicted on the substantive offenses.

The Court of Appeals affirm their convictions and we granted certiorari.

In an opinion filed today with the clerk, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

As both the constitutional and statutory matter, the first step in evaluating compliance with minimization requirement, like evaluation of all alleged violations of the Fourth Amendment is to objectively asses the agents or officers conduct in light of the facts and circumstances confronting at the time without regard to his underlying intent or motive.

The Court of Appeals properly applied that standard in correctly concluded that neither statutory nor constitutional bounds have been exceeded.

We therefore affirm its judgment.

Mr. Justice Brennan whom Mr. justice Marshall joins has filed an opinion dissenting.