Vale v. Louisiana

PETITIONER: Donald J. Vale
LOCATION: Vale Residence

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1970-1971)

CITATION: 399 US 30 (1970)
ARGUED: Mar 04, 1970 / Mar 05, 1970
DECIDED: Jun 22, 1970
GRANTED: Oct 13, 1969

Eberhard P. Deutsch - for the appellant
Louise Korns - for the appellee

Facts of the case

New Orleans police officers had a warrant to arrest Donald J. Vale on narcotics charges. While staking out Vale’s home, the officers saw Vale come out of the house and do what they thought was a drug deal. The officers arrested Vale outside his home and told him they were going to search the house. The officers did not have a search warrant. During the search, the officers found narcotics in a back bedroom. This evidence was admitted at Vale’s trial where he was convicted. The Louisiana Supreme Court affirmed his conviction. The court rejected Vale’s argument that the narcotics evidence was the product of an unreasonable search and seizure.


Was the police officer’s warrantless search of Vale’s home an unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment?

Media for Vale v. Louisiana

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 05, 1970 (Part 2) in Vale v. Louisiana

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 04, 1970 (Part 1) in Vale v. Louisiana

Warren E. Burger:

Number 727, Vale against Louisiana.

Eberhard P. Deutsch:

Mr. Chief Justice --

Warren E. Burger:

Mr. Deutsch, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

I'm sure you could have proceeded in either case.

William O. Douglas:

Would you like to comment on that prior case?

Eberhard P. Deutsch:


It's a good fortune one rarely has.

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

The appellant in this case have been charged in a proceeding prior to the one here at issue where the violation of the state narcotics law.

In the course of that proceeding, his bond was raised on the prior charge and three policemen with capiases for his arrest in connection with the raised bond proceeded to what was believed to be his home and they did what they called stick themselves out and hid themselves near the home to watch it for some reason.

They said they want to be sure he was home before they arrested him, I didn't quite understand.

In any event, while they were waiting in hiding an automobile drove up in front of the appellant's home and it was driven by a man known to be a narcotics addict.

The driver sounded his horn, appellant came out of the house, talked to the driver from the other side, the passenger side of the automobile, returned to his home, came out again, again talked to the driver and then the police made their presence known, surrounded the automobile, arrested the driver, he hastily put something into his mouth and presumably swallowed it.

The police assumed that what they called a transaction was taking place and the appellant himself turned and started to walk back into his home, they stopped him and arrested him.

There are some variations in the testimony about how far he was from the door of his home.

And I suppose, at one point I think it said he was at the front steps.

At another, he was at the side of the car anywhere from 15 to 30 feet away.

In any event, he was not inside the house when arrested and I think the best way to put it was that he was on the sidewalk in front of his home.

Potter Stewart:

I think there were some indications the door was opened.

Eberhard P. Deutsch:

The door was presumably opened, yes.

Potter Stewart:

And that he was -- had come close enough so that he had opened the door, if that was right?

Eberhard P. Deutsch:

No, I don't think that's him.

Potter Stewart:

I think that's a misunderstanding.

Eberhard P. Deutsch:

Yes, I think he had left it open when he came out.

Potter Stewart:

I see.

Eberhard P. Deutsch:

I'm not positive of that.

In any event, they were all arrested.

Now, the police have no search warrant, they entered the home over the protest to the appellant.

Advised him they were going to search the home for narcotics and advised him of his rights presumably in the usual fashion.

A few minutes later, his mother and brother came home and they were also told that the house was to be searched and protested, at least the mother protested and they proceeded with the search.