SEGURA V. UNITED STATES, 468 U. S. 796 (1984)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Segura v. United States, 468 U.S. 796 (1984)

Segura v. United States

No. 82-5298

Argued November 9, 1983

Decided July 5, 1984

468 U.S. 796


Acting on information that petitioners probably were trafficking in cocaine from their apartment, New York Drug Enforcement Task Force agents began a surveillance of petitioners. Thereafter, upon observing petitioner Colon deliver a bulky package to one Parra at a restaurant parking lot, while petitioner Segura and one Rivudalla-Vidal visited inside the restaurant, the agents followed Parra and Rivudalla-Vidal to their apartment and stopped them. Parra was found to possess cocaine, and she and Rivudalla-Vidal were immediately arrested. After being advised of his constitutional rights, Rivudalla-Vidal admitted that he had purchased the cocaine from petitioner Segura and confirmed that petitioner Colon had made the delivery at the restaurant. Task Force agents were then authorized by an Assistant United States Attorney to arrest petitioners, and were advised that a search warrant for petitioners' apartment probably could not be obtained until the following day, but that the agent should secure the premises to prevent destruction of evidence. Later that same evening, the agents arrested petitioner Segura in the lobby of petitioners' apartment building, took him to the apartment, knocked on the door, and, when it was opened by petitioner Colon, entered the apartment without requesting or receiving permission. The agents then conducted a limited security check of the apartment and, in the process, observed, in plain view, various drug paraphernalia. Petitioner Colon was then arrested, and both petitioners were taken into custody. Two agents remained in the apartment awaiting the warrant, but, because of "administrative delay," the search warrant was not issued until some 19 hours after the initial entry into the apartment. In the search pursuant to the warrant, the agents discovered, inter alia, cocaine and records of narcotics transactions. These items were seized, together with those observed during the security check. The District Court granted petitioners' pretrial motion to suppress all the seized evidence. The Court of Appeals held that the evidence discovered in plain view on the initial entry, but not the evidence seized during the warrant search, must be suppressed. Petitioners were subsequently convicted of violating federal drug laws, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.


1. The exclusionary rule reaches not only primary evidence obtained as a direct result of an illegal search or seizure, but also evidence later

Page 468 U. S. 797

discovered and found to be derivative of an illegality or "fruit of the poisonous tree." Nardone v. United States, 308 U. S. 338, 308 U. S. 341. The exclusionary rule does not apply, however, if the connection between the illegal police conduct and the discovery and seizure of the evidence is "so attenuated as to dissipate the taint," ibid., as, for example, where the police had an "independent source" for discovery of the evidence. Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States, 251 U. S. 385. Pp. 468 U. S. 804-805.

2. Here, there was an independent source for the challenged evidence; the evidence was discovered during a search of petitioners' apartment pursuant to a valid warrant. The information on which the warrant was secured came from sources wholly unconnected with the initial entry, and was known to the agents well before that entry. Hence, whether the initial entry was illegal or not is irrelevant to the admissibility of the evidence, and exclusion of the evidence is not warranted as derivative or as "fruit of the poisonous tree." Pp. 468 U. S. 813-816.

697 F.2d 300, affirmed.

BURGER, C.J.,announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, III, V, and VI, in which WHITE, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined, and an opinion with respect to Part IV, in which O'CONNOR, J., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined, post, p. 468 U. S. 817.

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