Law School Case Brief
United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez - 494 U.S. 259, 110 S. Ct. 1056 (1990)
Aliens receive constitutional protections when they come within the territory of the United States and develop substantial connections with the country, and the provisions of U.S. Const. amend. XIV are universal in their application to all persons within the territorial jurisdiction.
After the Government obtained an arrest warrant for respondent Rene Martin Verdugo-Urquidez, a Mexican citizen and resident believed to be a leader of an organization that smuggled narcotics into the United States, he was apprehended by Mexican police and transported him to a border patrol station where United States Marshals arrested him. Following his arrest, Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") agents, working with Mexican officials, searched his Mexican residence and seized certain documents. At trial in federal district court on narcotics-related charges, the court granted Verdugo-Urquidez's motion to suppress the evidence seized from his residence, concluding that the Fourth Amendment, which protected "the people" against unreasonable searches and seizures, applied to the searches of that residence and that the DEA agents had failed to justify searching the premises without a warrant. The court of appeals affirmed, citing Reid v. Covert, 354 U.S. 1, which held that American citizens tried abroad by United States military officials were entitled to Fifth and Sixth Amendment protections. The appellate court concluded that the Constitution imposed substantive constraints on the Federal Government, even when it operated abroad. Relying on INS v. Lopez-Mendoza, 468 U.S. 1032 , where a majority assumed that illegal aliens in the United States had Fourth Amendment rights, the court observed that it would be odd to acknowledge that Verdugo-Urquidez was entitled to trial-related rights guaranteed by the Fifth and Sixth Amendments, but not to Fourth Amendment protection. The Government was granted a writ of certiorari.
Did the protections against unreasonable search and seizure extend to aliens outside the United States?
The Supreme Court of the United States reversed the appellate court's judgment. The Court ruled that the protection against unreasonable searches and seizures extended its reach only to the "people," which referred to a class of persons who were part of a national community or who had otherwise developed sufficient connection with the United States to be considered a part of its community. The Court distinguished the matter from cases where residents stationed abroad were afforded rights under the Constitution. Because Verdugo-Urquidez was a citizen of Mexico with no voluntary attachment to the United States, and because the residence searched was in Mexico, the protections against unreasonable search and seizure had no application.
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