United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez

PETITIONER: United States
RESPONDENT: Verdugo-Urquidez
LOCATION: Verdugo-Urquidez's Residence

DOCKET NO.: 88-1353
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 494 US 259 (1990)
ARGUED: Nov 07, 1989
DECIDED: Feb 28, 1990

Lawrence S. Robbins - Argued the cause for the United States
Michael Pancer - Argued the cause for the respondent

Facts of the case

Rene Martin Verdugo-Urquidez was a citizen and resident of Mexico. In cooperation with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Mexican police officers apprehended and transported him to the U.S. border, where he was arrested for various narcotics-related offenses. Following his arrest, a DEA agent sought authorization to search Verdugo-Urquidez's residences for evidence. The Director General of the Mexican Federal Judicial Police authorized the searches, but no search warrant from a U.S. magistrate was ever received. At trial, the district court granted Verdugo-Urquidez's motion to suppress the evidence on the ground that the search violated the Fourth Amendment to the Federal Constitution.


Does the Fourth Amendment apply to the search and seizure by United States agents of property that is owned by a nonresident alien and located in a foreign country?

Media for United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 07, 1989 in United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - February 28, 1990 in United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez

William H. Rehnquist:

I have the opinions of the Court to announce in two cases.

The first is United States versus Verdugo-Urquidez.

Here, the respondent, Rene Martin Verdugo-Urquidez, was a Mexican citizen and resident whom the Drug Enforcement Agency believed to be a leader of an organization that smuggles narcotics into this country.

The Mexican police officers apprehended him in Mexico and transported him to the United States boarder where he was arrested by United States marshals.

Shortly afterwards, DEA agents working in concert with Mexican police searched his residence in Mexico and seized certain documents.

The District Court granted his motion to suppress evidence seized during the searches concluding that the Fourth Amendment applied to the searches and that the DEA agents failed to justify searching respondent’s premisses without a warrant, and the Court of Appeals agreed with this view.

In an opinion filed today, we hold that the Fourth Amendment does not apply to the search and seizure by United States agents of property owned by a non-resident alien and located in a foreign country.

The text of the Fourth Amendment, its history, and our cases interpreting the provision indicate that the Fourth Amendment was not intended to apply in this situation.

The respondent is an alien with no previous voluntary connection with this country, it is legal but involuntary presence here does not indicate any such connection.

Any restrictions on searches and seizures incident to American action abroad must be imposed by the political branches through diplomatic understanding, treaty, or legislation.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals is therefore reversed.

Justice Kennedy has filed a concurring opinion; Justice Stevens has filed an opinion concurring in the judgment; Justice Brennan has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Marshall joins; Justice Blackmun has filed a dissenting opinion.