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U.S. Supreme Court

Almeida-Sanchez v. United States, 413 U.S. 266 (1973)

Almeida-Sanchez v. United States

No. 71-6278

Argued March 19 and 28, 1973

Decided June 21, 1973

413 U.S. 266


Petitioner, a Mexican citizen and holder of a valid work permit, challenges the constitutionality of the Border Patrol's warrantless search of his automobile 25 air miles north of the Mexican border. The search, made without probable cause or consent, uncovered marihuana, which was used to convict petitioner of a federal crime. The Government seeks to justify the search on the basis of § 287(a)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which provides for warrantless searches of automobiles and other conveyances "within a reasonable distance from any external boundary of the United States," as authorized by regulations to be promulgated by the Attorney General. The Attorney General's regulation defines "reasonable distance" as "within 100 air miles from any external boundary of the United States." The Court of Appeals upheld the search on the basis of the Act and regulation.

Held: The warrantless search of petitioner's automobile, made without probable cause or consent, violated the Fourth Amendment. Pp. 413 U. S. 269-275.

(a) The search cannot be justified on the basis of any special rules applicable to automobile searches, as probable cause was lacking; nor can it be justified by analogy with administrative inspections, as the officers had no warrant or reason to believe that petitioner had crossed the border or committed an offense, and there was no consent by petitioner. Pp. 413 U. S. 269-272.

(b) The search was not a border search or the functional equivalent thereof. Pp. 413 U. S. 272-275.

452 F.2d 459, reversed.

STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which DOUGLAS, BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and POWELL, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 413 U. S. 275. WHITE, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J.,and BLACKMUN and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined, post, p. 413 U. S. 285.

Page 413 U. S. 267

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