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United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez


The defendant was a citizen and resident of Mexico. A federal court issued a warrant for his arrest for narcotic-related offenses. He was arrested by Mexican officials and turned over to U.S. Marshals in California. Following the arrest, a DEA Agent in concert with Mexican law enforcement searched the defendant’s residences located in Mexico. The agent believed the searches would reveal evidence of defendant’s narcotics trafficking and his involvement in the torture-murder of a DEA Agent. Arrangements were made with appropriate Mexican officials who authorized the searches. One search uncovered a tally sheet that the government believed reflected the quantities of marijuana smuggled by defendant into the United States.


Whether the Fourth Amendment applies to the search and seizure by U.S. agents of property that is owned by a foreign national and located in a foreign country?


No. The Fourth Amendment’s Warrant Clause has no applicability to searches of non- U.S. citizens’ homes located in foreign jurisdictions because U.S. magistrates have no power to authorize such searches.


The Fourth Amendment does not apply where American officers search a foreign national who has no “substantial connections” with the United States and where the search takes place outside the United States. The Fourth Amendment protects “the people.” The term “the people” refers to a class of persons who consist of a national community or who have otherwise developed sufficient ties with this country to be considered part of that community. This language contrasts with the words “person” and “accused” used in the Fifth and Sixth Amendments regulating procedure in criminal cases.

The Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights are different from Fourth Amendment rights. They are fundamental trial rights; a violation occurs only at trial. A violation of the Fourth Amendment is fully accomplished at the time of an unreasonable intrusion by government agents. Therefore, any possible Fourth Amendment violation occurred in Mexico.

The absence of local judges or magistrates available to issue warrants, the differing and perhaps unascertainable conceptions of reasonableness and privacy that prevail abroad, and the need to cooperate with foreign officials all indicate that the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement should not apply abroad.


494 U.S. 259, 110 S. Ct. 1056 (1990)

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