United States v. Salvucci

PETITIONER: United States
LOCATION: United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division

DOCKET NO.: 79-244
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

CITATION: 448 US 83 (1980)
ARGUED: Mar 26, 1980
DECIDED: Jun 25, 1980

John C. McBride - on behalf of Respondent Zackular
Mark Irving Levy - on behalf of the Petitioner
Willie J. Davis - on behalf of Respondent Salvucci

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Salvucci

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 26, 1980 (Part 2) in United States v. Salvucci

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 26, 1980 (Part 1) in United States v. Salvucci

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear argument next in No. 79-244, United States v. Salvucci and Zackular.

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

Mark Irving Levy:

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 First Circuit.

The respondents were charged in a 12-count indictment with unlawful possession of stolen mail.

The indictment was based on twelve checks that had been stolen from the United States mails and that were determined to bear respondents' fingerprints.

These checks, along with more than 700 other stolen checks, were seized by Massachusetts State Police officers during their search pursuant to a state warrant of an apartment rented by respondent Zackular's mother.

The indictment alleged that respondents unlawfully possessed this stolen mail from late 1975 to on or about December 17, 1976, the date on which the search occurred.

Prior to trial, the respondents moved to suppress the checks because the affidavit submitted in support of the application for the search warrant failed to show probable cause.

The District Court granted their motion and ordered suppression.

The government then sought reconsideration of the suppression order on the ground that the respondents lacked standing to challenge the search of the mother's apartment.

The government's motion for reconsideration argued that respondents had neither a sufficient proprietary or possessory interest in a property seized or premises searched to contest the validity of the search, nor automatic standing under Jones v. United States.

The respondents filed a memorandum in opposition to this motion in which they relied solely on a claim of automatic standing.

Following submission of the government's memorandum, the District Court by a handwritten notation on the face of the government's motion reaffirmed the suppression order.

On the government's appeal, the First Circuit affirmed.

With respect to the issue of standing, it found that the respondents had no actual standing to contest the lawfulness of the search because they had not established a reasonable expectation of privacy in the premises searched or the property seized or claimed the proprietary or possessory interest in the premises or the checks.

Nevertheless, the court held the respondents could challenge the search based on the automatic standing rule of Jones.

Although it recognized that this Court had questioned the continued vitality of the automatic standing doctrine and that there was a split of authority in the lower courts on the issue, the Court of Appeals felt obligated to adhere to the Jones rule until this Court resolved the matter.

We submit that the Jones automatic standing rule should now be overturned.

Under Jones, a defendant automatically has standing to contest a search that leads to the seizure of evidence where possession of the seized evidence at the time of the search is an essential element of the offense with which he is charged.

Automatic standing turns solely on the nature of the charge brought by the prosecutor and it enables a defendant to obtain the suppression of reliable and probative evidence even though his own constitutional rights were not implicated in the search.

In this way, automatic standing is inconsistent with the well settled principle that the exclusionary rule can be invoked only by a defendant who has demonstrated that his personal Fourth Amendment rights have been violated.

The Court in Jones found that cases involving possessory offenses presented a special problem that for two reasons warranted departure from the conventional principles of standing.

First was the self-incrimination dilemma in which the defendant was confronted with either foregoing the assertion of his Fourth Amendment claim or, in order to establish standing, giving incriminating testimony as an admission could be used in the government's case in chief to prove his guilt at trial.

As this Court observed in Brown v. United States, this self-incrimination dilemma can no longer occur in light of the subsequent decision in Simmons v. United States that a defendant's testimony at a suppression hearing cannot be introduced as part of the prosecutor's direct case at trial.

We believe that Brown correctly concluded that the self-incrimination dilemma is no longer an issue after Simmons.

John Paul Stevens:

So there is no issue here about other grounds for standing here, such as an interest in the premises or being a guest on the premises?

Mark Irving Levy:

There is not.

The respondents were not present at the time of the search and they have never in the course of this proceeding asserted that they had any basis for actual standing.

Indeed, respondent Zackular in his brief in the Court of Appeals and in this Court I think expressly concedes that they have no actual standing, and there is nothing in the record to support the claim of actual standing.