ALDERMAN V. UNITED STATES, 394 U. S. 165 (1969)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Alderman v. United States, 394 U.S. 165 (1969)

Alderman v. United States

No. 133, Oct. Term, 1967

Certiorari denied October 9, 1967

Rehearing and certiorari granted

and case decided January 29, 1968

Motion to modify argued May 2, 1968

Reargued October 14, 1968

Order of January 29, 1968, withdrawn, rehearing and

certiorari granted, and case decided March 10, 1969.*

394 U.S. 165


After petitioners in No. 133, O.T., 1967, were convicted of conspiring to transmit murderous threats in interstate commerce, they discovered that one petitioner's place of business had been subject to electronic surveillance by the Government. This Court refused to accept the Government's ex parte determination that "no overheard conversation in which any of the petitioners participated is arguably relevant to this prosecution," and vacated and remanded the case for further proceedings (390 U.S. 136). The Government moved to modify the order, urging that surveillance records should be subjected to in camera inspection by the trial judge, who would then turn over to petitioners only those materials arguably relevant to their prosecution. In Nos. 11 and 197, petitioners, who were convicted of national security violations, raised similar questions relating to the use of eavesdropped information.


1. Suppression of the product of a Fourth Amendment violation can be successfully urged only by those whose rights were violated by the search itself, and not those who are aggrieved solely by the introduction of damaging evidence. Thus, codefendants and coconspirators have no special standing, and cannot prevent the admission against them of information which has been obtained through electronic surveillance which is illegal against another. Pp. 394 U. S. 171-176.

2. A petitioner would be entitled to the suppression of evidence violative of the Fourth Amendment where the Government unlawfully overheard conversations of the petitioner himself, or where the

Page 394 U. S. 166

conversations occurred on his premises, whether or not he was present or participated therein. Silverman v. United States, 365 U. S. 505, 365 U. S. 511-512. Pp. 394 U. S. 176-180.

3. If the surveillance is found to have been unlawful, and if a petitioner is found to have standing, the Government must disclose to him the records of those overheard conversations which the Government was not entitled to use in building its case against him. Pp. 394 U. S. 180-185.

(a) The task of determining those items which might have made a substantial contribution to the preparation of the Government's case is too complex, and the margin for error too great, to rely solely upon the in camera examination by the trial court. Pp. 394 U. S. 181-182.

(b) The trial court should, where appropriate, place defendants and their counsel under enforceable orders against unwarranted disclosure of the materials they are entitled to inspect. P. 394 U. S. 185.

(c) Defendants will not have an unlimited license to rummage in the Government's files, as they may need or be entitled to nothing beyond the specified records of overheard conversations and the right to cross-examine the appropriate officials regarding the connection between those records and the prosecution's case. P. 394 U. S. 185.

No. 133, O.T., 1967, order of January 29, 1968, withdrawn, order denying certiorari set aside, rehearing and certiorari granted, 371 F.2d 983, judgments vacated and remanded; Nos. 11 and 197, 34 F.2d 554, judgments vacated and remanded.

Page 394 U. S. 167

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