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Law School Case Brief

Immigration & Naturalization Serv. v. Delgado - 466 U.S. 210, 104 S. Ct. 1758 (1984)

Rule:

Police questioning, by itself, is unlikely to result in a Fourth Amendment violation. While most citizens will respond to a police request, the fact that people do so, and do so without being told they are free not to respond, hardly eliminates the consensual nature of the response. Unless the circumstances of the encounter are so intimidating as to demonstrate that a reasonable person would have believed he was not free to leave if he had not responded, one cannot say that the questioning resulted in a detention under the Fourth Amendment, U.S. Const. amend IV. But if the person refuses to answer and the police take additional steps to obtain an answer, then the Fourth Amendment imposes some minimal level of objective justification to validate the detention or seizure.

Facts:

Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) agents conducted factory surveys pursuant to warrant by which they entered employers' worksites to determine whether any illegal aliens were present as employees. Four employees and their union representative (Respondents) brought actions challenging the constitutionality of INS factory surveys and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. According to respondents, their equal protection rights and their U.S. Const. amend. IV right to be free from unreasonable searches or seizures were violated. The district court held that respondents had no reasonable expectation of privacy and that, since law enforcement officers could have asked questions of anyone, none of the respondents had been unlawfully detained. The court of appeals reversed, holding that each factory had been seized for the duration of questioning because a reasonable worker would have believed that he was not free to leave. The appellate court also held that under U.S. Const. amend. IV, an employee could be questioned only on the basis of a reasonable suspicion that that employee was an illegal alien. INS appealed.

Issue:

  1. Did the factory surveys result in the seizure of the entire work force? 
  2. Did the individual questioning of the employees amount to a detention or seizure under the Fourth Amendment?

Answer:

1) No. 2) No.

Conclusion:

The Court held that the factory surveys did not result in the seizure of the entire work forces and that the individual questioning of the employees bringing suit by INS agents concerning the employees' citizenship did not amount to a detention or seizure under the Fourth Amendment. The Court pointed out that the INS agents' conduct consisted simply of questioning employees and arresting those they had probable cause to believe were unlawfully present in the factory. The Court noted that the questioning of each employee bringing suit was nothing more than a brief encounter and that the manner in which these employees were questioned did not result in a reasonable fear that they were not free to continue working or to move about the factory.

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