8 Cir: Warrantless arrest isn’t egregious 4th Amend violation meriting suppression

By University of Denver Sturm College of Law
Jan 31, 2012

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit rejected a non-citizen’s attempt to exclude evidence of his identity obtained after a warrantless arrest. Garcia-Torres v. Holder, No. 10-2307, slip op. (8th Cir. 2011) (Loken, Colloton, and Nelson, JJ.). District Judge Nelson, sitting by designation on the Eighth Circuit, wrote the panel’s opinion.

This case involved an entrant without inspection who was present at a Missouri restaurant that local police officers “acting on a tip that alcohol was being consumed in violation of a local ordinance” entered without a warrant. Garcia-Torres, No. 10-2307, slip op. at 2. García-Torres and other individuals were arrested. The local prosecutor decided not to file any charges against García-Torres because of a lack of probable cause for the arrest. Garcia-Torres, No. 10-2307, slip op. at 2. Despite this, ICE soon took custody of García-Torres upon suspicion that he was in the country without authorization. Garcia-Torres, No. 10-2307, slip op. at 2.

In removal proceedings, García-Torres moved to suppress the I-213 Record of Deportable/Inadmissible Alien and all evidence obtained as a result of the arrest at the restaurant including his identity. Garcia-Torres, No. 10-2307, slip op. at 2. The IJ denied the motion and the BIA affirmed. Garcia-Torres, No. 10-2307, slip op. at 2.

The U.S. Supreme Court has long held that suppression is typically reserved for criminal proceedings. INS v. Lopez-Mendoza, 468 U.S. 1032 (1984). Suppression might be appropriate in immigration proceedings, the Lopez-Mendoza Court added, only in rare circumstances involving an “egregious” violation of a constitutional right. Lopez-Mendoza, 468 U.S. at 1051.

García-Torres argued that his arrest constituted “an egregious, bad faith violation of the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures,” thus it merited suppression. Garcia-Torres, No. 10-2307, slip op. at 3 (internal citations omitted).

The Eighth Circuit disagreed. Assuming without deciding that an egregious violation of the Fourth Amendment by state or local police officers can be the basis of exclusion in federal immigration proceedings (about which the Eighth Circuit “has expressed doubt”), the court determined that the warrantless arrest initiated upon an informant’s tip is “nothing more than a warrantless entry of business premises and arrest, mere garden-variety error, if a Fourth Amendment violation at all.” Garcia-Torres, No. 10-2307, slip op. at 5. By no means, the court went on, is such a violation “egregious.” Garcia-Torres, No. 10-2307, slip op. at 6.

The court did not provide more detail on what might constitute an egregious violation. It did, however, “decline to adopt the Ninth Circuit’s standard that [García-Torres] advocates, that is, than an ‘egregious violation’ is nothing more than a ‘bad faith’ violation, and that such bad faith exists where ‘a reasonable officer should have known that the conduct at issue violated the Constitution.’” Garcia-Torres, No. 10-2307, slip op. at 6 n.4 (discussing Gonzalez-Rivera v. INS, 22 F.3d 1441, 1447-48 (9th Cir. 1994)).

This decision is quite similar to Puc-Ruiz v. Holder, 629 F.3d 771 (8th Cir. 2010), involving another individual arrested during this event.