United States v. Quinn

PETITIONER: United States
LOCATION: Dow Chemical

DOCKET NO.: 84-1717
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 475 US 791 (1986)
ARGUED: Mar 05, 1986
DECIDED: Apr 21, 1986

Eugene G. Iredale - on behalf of the respondent
Mark Irving Levy - on behalf of the petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Quinn

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 05, 1986 in United States v. Quinn

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in United States against Quinn.

Mr. Levy, you may proceed when you are ready.

Mark Irving Levy:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, this case is here on writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The question presented by our petition is whether under the Fourth Amendment respondent had a reasonable expectation of privacy in a fishing boat, the Sea Otter, and thus was entitled to challenge the search of the boat as the basis for seeking the suppression of evidence.

The District Court held that respondent had no such standing to move for suppression.

On respondent's appeal pursuant to a conditional guilty plea that reserved the issue of his standing to challenge the cert, a divided panel of the Court of Appeals reversed and held that respondent did have an expectation of privacy in the Sea Otter.

Now, the facts relevant to this issue are set forth in the government's submission in the District Court.

Although respondent is the proponent of the motion, had the burden of proof on the issue of his privacy interest, he neither made a factual presentation of his own in the District Court nor contested the government's factual statement.

In 1978, respondent solicited one George Mayberry Hunt to participate in a drug smuggling scheme.

Pursuant to that plan, respondent was to purchase a boat that Hunt and his crew would use to transport marijuana from Colombia, South America, to respondent's ranch on the coast of northern California.

After delivering the marijuana, Hunt and the crew were to take the boat and go to Mexico.

Pursuant to that plan, respondent thereafter purchased the Sea Otter.

In the spring of 1979, respondent turned over the Sea Otter to a crew that had been recruited by Hunt.

The crew sailed to Mexico to meet Hunt, and then on to Columbia to pick up the cargo of marijuana.

The Sea Otter then returned to California and delivered the marijuana to respondent's ranch in June of 1979.

Following delivery of the marijuana, Hunt and the crew started to sail the Sea Otter southward, but were delayed by bad weather.

At that point, California fish and game officials boarded the Sea Otter because of suspected illegal fishing activities.

The state officials saw things that led them to believe the Sea Otter had been engaged in marijuana smuggling, and they so notified the federal authorities.

Coast Guard and Customs officers then went aboard the Sea Otter and found a number of suspicious circumstances, including admitted violations of Customs and Immigration requirements, a lack of documentation for the vessel, and evidence that two large rafts had recently been used, even though Hunt and the crew denied that they had been ashore.

The Sea Otter was placed under seizure, and escorted to a nearby Coast Guard station where its cargo holds were pumped out and marijuana residue was found.

No formal charges were brought against Hunt and the crew.

Hunt remained in the San Francisco area for approximately nine months while the Sea Otter underwent repairs.

He then took the boat to Costa Rica and used it for commercial fishing.

Hunt turned over the Sea Otter to respondent in Costa Rica in November, 1981.

Now, our submission here is straightforward.

Respondent did not have an expectation of privacy in the Sea Otter, and therefore the search of the boat did not implicate any Fourth Amendment right of his.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Mr. Levy, the respondent, of course, has changed the whole attack now that he is in this Court, and says, well, the real problem is the seizure of the boat and possibly the seizure of the marijuana revenue.

It is no longer a challenge to the search as such, and I wonder whether the respondent... whether you think the respondent can properly raise those issues here.

Mark Irving Levy:

We think he cannot.

We have addressed that issue in the reply brief, and in our reply brief we have traced the course of this litigation in considerable detail, and that discussion demonstrates that the entire focus of this case is on respondent's standing to challenge the search of the Sea Otter, not the seizure.