INS V. LOPEZ-MENDOZA, 468 U. S. 1032 (1984)

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U.S. Supreme Court

INS v. Lopez-Mendoza, 468 U.S. 1032 (1984)

INS v. Lopez-Mendoza

No. 83-491

Argued April 18, 1984

Decided July 5, 1984

468 U.S. 1032


Respondent Mexican citizens were ordered deported by an Immigration Judge. Respondent Lopez-Mendoza unsuccessfully objected to being summoned to the deportation hearing following his allegedly unlawful arrest by an Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) agent, but he did not object to the receipt in evidence of his admission, after the arrest, of illegal entry into this country. Respondent Sandoval-Sanchez, who also admitted his illegal entry after being arrested by an INS agent, unsuccessfully objected to the evidence of his admission offered at the deportation proceeding, contending that it should have been suppressed as the fruit of an unlawful arrest. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirmed the deportation orders. The Court of Appeals reversed respondent Sandoval-Sanchez' deportation order, holding that his detention by INS agents violated the Fourth Amendment, that his admission of illegal entry was the product of this detention, and that the exclusionary rule barred its use in a deportation proceeding. The court vacated respondent Lopez-Mendoza's deportation order and remanded his case to the BIA to determine whether the Fourth Amendment had been violated in the course of his arrest.


1. A deportation proceeding is a purely civil action to determine a person's eligibility to remain in this country. The purpose of deportation is not to punish past transgressions, but rather to put an end to a continuing violation of the immigration laws. Consistent with the civil nature of a deportation proceeding, various protections that apply in the context of a criminal trial do not apply in a deportation hearing. Pp. 468 U. S. 1038-1039.

2. The "body" or identity of a defendant in a criminal or civil proceeding is never itself suppressible as the fruit of an unlawful arrest, even if it is conceded that an unlawful arrest, search, or interrogation occurred. On this basis alone, the Court of Appeals' decision as to respondent Lopez-Mendoza must be reversed, since he objected only to being summoned to his deportation hearing after an allegedly unlawful arrest, and did not object to the evidence offered against him. The mere fact of an illegal arrest has no bearing on a subsequent deportation hearing. Pp. 468 U. S. 1039-1040.

Page 468 U. S. 1033

3. The exclusionary rule does not apply in a deportation proceeding; hence, the rule does not apply so as to require that respondent Sandoval-Sanchez' admission of illegal entry after his allegedly unlawful arrest be excluded from evidence at his deportation hearing. Under the balancing test applied in United States v. Janis, 428 U. S. 433, whereby the likely social benefits of excluding unlawfully obtained evidence are weighed against the likely costs, the balance comes out against applying the exclusionary rule in civil deportation proceedings. Several factors significantly reduce the likely deterrent value of the rule in such proceedings. First, regardless of how the arrest of an illegal alien is effected, deportation will still be possible when evidence not derived directly from the arrest is sufficient to support deportation. Second, based on statistics indicating that over 97.7 percent of illegal aliens agree to voluntary deportation without a formal hearing, every INS agent knows that it is unlikely that any particular arrestee will end up challenging the lawfulness of his arrest in a formal deportation hearing. Third, the INS has its own comprehensive scheme for deterring Fourth Amendment violations by its agents. And finally, the deterrent value of the exclusionary rule in deportation proceedings is undermined by the availability of alternative remedies for INS practices that might violate Fourth Amendment rights. As to the social costs of applying the exclusionary rule in deportation proceedings, they would be high. In particular, the application of the rule in cases such as respondent Sandoval-Sanchez' would compel the courts to release from custody persons who would then immediately resume their commission of a crime through their continuing, unlawful presence in this country, and would unduly complicate the INS's deliberately simple deportation hearing system. Pp. 468 U. S. 1040-1050.

705 F.2d 1059, reversed.

O'CONNOR, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, III, and IV, in which BURGER, C.J.,and BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined, and an opinion with respect to Part V, in which BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., post, p. 468 U. S. 1051, WHITE, J., post, p. 468 U. S. 1052, MARSHALL, J., post, p. 468 U. S. 1060, and STEVENS, J., post, p. 468 U. S. 1061, filed dissenting opinions.

Page 468 U. S. 1034

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