Vale v. Louisiana/Opinion of the Court
|Vale v. Louisiana by
Opinion of the Court
United States Supreme Court
VALE v. LOUISIANA
Argued: March 4, 5, 1970. --- Decided: June 22, 1970
The appellant, Donald Vale, was convicted in a Louisiana court on a charge of possessing heroin and was sentenced as a multiple offender to 15 years' imprisonment at hard labor. The Louisiana Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, rejecting the claim that evidence introduced at the trial was the product of an unlawful search and seizure. 252 La. 1056, 215 So.2d 811. We granted Vale's motion to proceed in forma pauperis, postponed consideration of the question of jurisdiction to the hearing of the case on the merits, and limited review to the search-and-seizure question. 396 U.S 813, 90 S.Ct. 108, 24 L.Ed.2d 65. [*]
The evidence adduced at the pretrial hearing on a motion to suppress showed that on April 24, 1967, officers possessing two warrants for Vale's arrest and having information that he was residing at a specified address proceeded there in an unmarked car and set up a surveillance of the house. The evidence of what then took place was summarized by the Louisiana Supreme Court as follows:
'After approximately 15 minutes the officers observed a green 1958 Chevrolet drive up and sound the horn and after backing into a parking place, again blew the horn. At this juncture Donald Vale, who was well known to Officer Brady having arrested him twice in the previous month, was seen coming out of the house and walk up to the passenger side of the Chevrolet where he had a close brief conversation with the driver; and after looking up and down the street returned inside of the house. Within a few minutes he reappeared on the porch, and again cautiously looked up and down the street before proceeding to the passenger side of the Chevrolet, leaning through the window. From this the officers were convinced a narcotics sale had taken place. They returned to their car and immediately drove toward Donald Vale, and as they reached within approximately three cars lengths from the accused, (Donald Vale) he looked up and, obviously recognizing the officers, turned around, walking quickly toward the house. At the same time the driver of the Chevrolet started to make his get away when the car was blocked by the police vehicle. The three officers promptly alighted from the car, whereupon Officers Soule and Laumann called to Donald Vale to stop as he reached the front steps of the house, telling him he was under arrest. Officer Brady at the same time, seeing the driver of the Chevrolet, Arizzio Saucier, whom the officers knew to be a narcotic addict, place something hurriedly in his mouth, immediately placed him under arrest and joined his co-officers. Because of the transaction they had just observed they, informed Donald Vale they were going to search the house, and thereupon advised him of his constitutional rights. After they all entered the front room, Officer Laumann made a cursory inspection of the house to ascertain if anyone else was present and within about three minutes Mrs. Vale and James Vale, mother and brother of Donald Vale, returned home carrying groceries and were informed of the arrest and impending search.' 252 La., at 1067-1068, 215 So.2d, at 815. (Footnote omitted.)
The search of a rear bedroom revealed a quantity of narcotics.
The Louisiana Supreme Court held that the search of the house did not violate the Fourth Amendment because it occurred 'in the immediate vicinity of the arrest' of Donald Vale and was 'substantially contemporaneous therewith * * *.' 252 La., at 1070, 215 So.2d, at 816. We cannot agree. Last Term in Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752, 89 S.Ct. 2034, 23 L.Ed.2d 685, we held that when the search of a dwelling is sought to be justified as incident to a lawful arrest, it must constitutionally be confined to the area within the arrestee's reach at the time of his arrest 'the area from within which he might gain possession of a weapon or destructible evidence.' 395 U.S., at 763, 89 S.Ct. at 2040. But even if Chimel is not accorded retroactive effect-a question on which we do not now express an opinion-no precedent of this Court can sustain the constitutional validity of the search in the case before us.
A search may be incident to an arrest "only if it is substantially contemporaneous with the arrest and is confined to the immediate vicinity of the arrest." Shipley v. California, 395 U.S. 818, 819, 89 S.Ct. 2053, 23 L.Ed.2d 732; Stoner v. California, 376 U.S. 483, 486, 84 S.Ct. 889, 891, 11 L.Ed.2d 856. If a search of a house is to be upheld as incident to an arrest, that arrest must take place inside the house, cf. Agnello v. United States, 269 U.S. 20, 32, 46 S.Ct. 4, 6, 70 L.Ed. 145, not somewhere outside-whether two blocks away, James v. Louisiana, 382 U.S. 36, 86 S.Ct. 151, 15 L.Ed.2d 30, twenty feet away, Shipley v. California, supra, or on the sidewalk near the front steps. 'Belief, however well founded, that an article sought is concealed in a dwelling house furnishes no justification for a search of that place without a warrant.' Agnello v. United States, supra, 269 U.S. at 33, 46 S.Ct. at 6. That basic rule 'has never been questioned in this Court.' Stoner v. California, supra, 376 U.S. at 487 n. 5, 84 S.Ct. at 892.
The Louisiana Supreme Court thought the search independently supportable because it involved narcotics, which are easily removed, hidden, or destroyed. It would be unreasonable, the Louisiana court concluded, 'to require the officers under the facts of the case to first secure a search warrant before searching the premises, as time is of the essence inasmuch as the officers never know whether there is anyone on the premises to be searched who could very easily destroy the evidence.' 252 La., at 1070, 215 So.2d, at 816. Such a rationale could not apply to the present case, since by their own account the arresting officers satisfied themselves that no one else was in the house when they first entered the premises. But entirely apart from that point, our past decisions make clear that only in 'a few specifically established and well-delineated' situations, Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 357, 88 S.Ct. 507, 19 L.Ed.2d 576, may a warrantless search of a dwelling withstand constitutional scrutiny, even though the authorities have probable cause to conduct it. The burden rests on the State to show the existence of such an exceptional situation. Chimel v. California, supra, 395 U.S. at 762, 89 S.Ct. at 2039; United States v. Jeffers, 342 U.S. 48, 51, 72 S.Ct. 93, 95, 96 L.Ed. 59; McDonald v. United States, 335 U.S. 451, 456, 69 S.Ct. 191, 193, 93 L.Ed. 153. And the record before us discloses none.
There is no suggestion that anyone consented to the search. Cf. Zap v. United States, 328 U.S. 624, 628, 66 S.Ct. 1277, 1279, 90 L.Ed. 1477. The officers were not responding to an emergency. United States v. Jeffers, supra, 342 U.S. at 52, 72 S.Ct. at 95; McDonald v. United States, supra, 335 U.S. at 454, 69 S.Ct. at 192. They were not in hot pursuit of a fleeing felon. Warden v. Hayden, 387 U.S. 294, 298-299, 87 S.Ct. 1642, 1645-1646, 18 L.Ed.2d 782; Chapman v. United States, 365 U.S. 610, 615, 81 S.Ct. 776, 779, 5 L.Ed.2d 828; Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10, 15, 68 S.Ct. 367, 369, 92 L.Ed. 436. The goods ultimately seized were not in the process of destruction. Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757, 770-771, 86 S.Ct. 1826, 1835-1836, 16 L.Ed.2d 908; United States v. Jeffers, supra; McDonald v. United States, supra, 335 U.S. at 455, 69 S.Ct. at 193. Nor were they about to be removed from the jurisdiction. Chapman v. United States, supra; Johnson v. United States, supra; United States v. Jeffers, supra.
The officers were able to procure two warrants for Vale's arrest. They also had information that he was residing at the address where they found him. There is thus no reason, so far as anything before us appears, to suppose that it was impracticable for them to obtain a search warrant as well. Cf. McDonald v. United States, supra, 335 U.S. at 454-455, 69 S.Ct. at 192-193; Trupiano v. United States, 334 U.S. 699, 705-706, 68 S.Ct. 1229, 1232-1233, 92 L.Ed. 1663; Johnson v. United States, supra; Taylor v. United States, 286 U.S. 1, 6, 52 S.Ct. 466, 467, 76 L.Ed. 928; Go-Bart Importing Co. v. United States, 282 U.S. 344, 358, 51 S.Ct. 153, 158, 75 L.Ed. 374; Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132, 156, 45 S.Ct. 280, 286, 69 L.Ed. 543; cf. Ker v. California, 374 U.S. 23, 42, 83 S.Ct. 1623, 10 L.Ed.2d 726 (opinion of Clark, J.). We decline to hold that an arrest on the street can provide its own 'exigent circumstance' so as to justify a warrantless search of the arrestee's house.
The Louisiana courts committed constitutional error in admitting into evidence the fruits of the illegal search. Shipley v. California, supra, 395 U.S. at 819, 89 S.Ct. at 2054; James v. Louisiana, supra, 382 U.S. at 37, 86 S.Ct. at 151; Ker v. California, supra, 374 U.S. at 30-34, 83 S.Ct. at 1628-1630; Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 81 S.Ct. 1684, 6 L.Ed.2d 1081. Accordingly, the judgment is reversed and the case is remanded to the Louisiana Supreme Court for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion. It is so ordered.
Reversed and remanded.
Mr. Justice BLACKMUN took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
Mr. Justice BLACK, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE joins, dissenting.
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