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United States v. Salerno

Supreme Court of the United States

January 21, 1987, Argued ; May 26, 1987, Decided

No. 86-87

Case Summary

Procedural Posture

The government filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to challenge its finding that 18 U.S.C.S. § 3142(e) of the Bail Reform Act of 1984 was unconstitutional, in an action by respondent arrestees.


The arrestees were charged with criminal offenses. At their arraignments, the government filed a motion to detain them on the ground that no condition of release would assure the safety of the community or any person. The district court granted the motion. The arrestees appealed, arguing that their pretrial detention, under 18 U.S.C.S. § 3142(e) of the Bail Reform Act of 1984 (BRA), was unconstitutional. The appellate court struck down the provision as facially unconstitutional. The government appealed from the decision. The Court reversed, holding that § 3142(e) was constitutional on its face because it was based on the compelling interest of concern for the safety of people. It did not violate the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment or the excessive bail clause of the Eighth Amendment. The Court also noted that the fact that the BRA might operate unconstitutionally under some conceivable set of circumstances was insufficient to render it wholly invalid. The arrestees failed to shoulder their heavy burden to demonstrate that the BRA was "facially" unconstitutional.


The Court reversed the appellate court's finding that a provision of the Bail Reform Act of 1984 was unconstitutional. The Court held that it was not unconstitutional for a federal court to detain an arrestee pending trial if the government demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence that no release conditions would reasonably assure the safety of any other person and the community.

LexisNexis® Headnotes



Criminal Law & Procedure > Preliminary Proceedings > Bail > Conditions of Release

HN1  Bail, Conditions of Release

See 18 U.S.C.S. § 3142(e).


Criminal Law & Procedure > Preliminary Proceedings > Bail > Conditions of Release

Criminal Law & Procedure > ... > Racketeering > Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act > Elements

Criminal Law & Procedure > Preliminary Proceedings > Bail > Hearings

HN2  Bail, Conditions of Release

The Bail Reform Act under 18 U.S.C.S. § 3142(f) provides the arrestee with a number of procedural safeguards. He may request the presence of counsel at the detention hearing, he may testify and present witnesses in his behalf, as well as proffer evidence, and he may cross-examine other witnesses appearing at the hearing. If the judicial officer finds that no conditions of pretrial release can reasonably assure the safety of other persons and the community, he must state his findings of fact in writing, 18 U.S.C.S. § 3142(i), and support his conclusion with "clear and convincing evidence," 18 U.S.C.S. § 3142(f). The judicial officer is not given unbridled discretion in making the detention determination. United States Congress has specified the considerations relevant to that decision. These factors include the nature and seriousness of the charges, the substantiality of the government's evidence against the arrestee, the arrestee's background and characteristics, and the nature and seriousness of the danger posed by the suspect's release. 18 U.S.C.S. § 3142(g). Should a judicial officer order detention, the detainee is entitled to expedited appellate review of the detention order. 18 U.S.C.S. § 3145(b), (c).


Constitutional Law > ... > Case or Controversy > Constitutionality of Legislation > General Overview

Governments > Legislation > Overbreadth

Constitutional Law > ... > Fundamental Freedoms > Judicial & Legislative Restraints > Overbreadth & Vagueness of Legislation

HN3  Case or Controversy, Constitutionality of Legislation

A facial challenge to a legislative act is, of course, the most difficult challenge to mount successfully, since the challenger must establish that no set of circumstances exists under which the act would be valid.

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481 U.S. 739 ; 107 S. Ct. 2095 ; 95 L. Ed. 2d 697 ; 1987 U.S. LEXIS 2259 ; 55 U.S.L.W. 4663



Disposition:  794 F.2d 64, reversed.