United States v. Calandra

Supreme Court of the United States

414 U.S. 338, 94 S.Ct. 613, 38 L.Ed.2d 561 (1974)

 

      In this case the Supreme Court considers whether a witness summoned to appear and testify before a grand jury may refuse to answer questions on the ground that they are based on evidence obtained from an unlawful search and seizure. In his opinion for the Court, Justice Powell discusses the role and function of the grand jury.

 

Mr. Justice Powell delivered the opinion of the court.

 

      ... The institution of the grand jury is deeply rooted in Anglo-American history. In England, the grand jury served for centuries both as a body of accusers sworn to discover and present for trial persons suspected of criminal wrongdoing and as a protector of citizens against arbitrary and oppressive governmental action. In this country the Founders thought the grand jury so essential to basic liberties that they provided in the Fifth Amendment that federal prosecution for serious crimes can only be instituted by “a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury.” ... The grand jury’s historic functions survive to this day. Its responsibilities continue to include both the determination whether there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed and the protection of citizens against unfounded criminal prosecutions. ...

 

      Traditionally the grand jury has been accorded wide latitude to inquire into violations of criminal law. No judge presides to monitor its proceedings. It deliberates in secret and may determine alone the course of its inquiry. The grand jury may compel the production of evidence or the testimony of witnesses as it considers appropriate, and its operation generally is unrestrained by the technical procedural and evidentiary rules governing the conduct of criminal trials. “It is a grand inquest, a body with powers of investigation and inquisition, the scope of whose inquiries is not to be limited narrowly by questions of propriety or forecasts of the probable result of the investigation, or by doubts whether any particular individual will be found properly subject to an accusation of crime.” ...

 

      The scope of the grand jury’s powers reflects its special role in insuring fair and effective law enforcement. A grand jury proceeding is not an adversary hearing in which the guilt or innocence of the accused is adjudicated. Rather, it is an ex parte investigation to determine whether a crime has been committed and whether criminal proceedings should be instituted against any person. The grand jury’s investigative power must be broad if its public responsibility is adequately to be discharged. ...

 

      The grand jury’s sources of information are widely drawn, and the validity of an indictment is not affected by the character of the evidence considered. Thus, an indictment valid on its face is not subject to challenge on the ground that the grand jury acted on the basis of inadequate or incompetent evidence, ... or even on the basis of information obtained in violation of a defendant’s Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. ...

 

      The power of a federal court to compel persons to appear and testify before a grand jury is also firmly established. ... The duty to testify has long been recognized as a basic obligation that every citizen owes his Government. ... The duty to testify may on occasion be burdensome and even embarrassing. It may cause injury to a witness’ social and economic status. Yet the duty to testify has been regarded as “so necessary to the administration of justice” that the witness’ personal interest in privacy must yield to the public’s overriding interest in full disclosure. ... Furthermore, a witness may not interfere with the course of the grand jury’s inquiry. He “is not entitled to urge objections of incompetency or irrelevancy, such as a party might raise, for this is no concern of his.” ... Nor is he entitled “to challenge the authority of the court or of the grand jury” or “to set limits to the investigation that the grand jury may conduct.” ...

 

      Of course, the grand jury’s subpoena power is not unlimited. It may consider incompetent evidence, but it may not itself violate a valid privilege, whether established by the Constitution, statutes, or the common law. ... Although, for example, an indictment based on evidence obtained in violation of a defendant’s Fifth Amendment privilege is nevertheless valid, ... the grand jury may not force a witness to answer questions in violation of that constitutional guarantee. Rather, the grand jury may override a Fifth Amendment claim only if the witness is granted immunity co-extensive with the privilege against self-incrimination. ... Similarly, a grand jury may not compel a person to produce books and papers that would incriminate him. ... The grand jury is also without power to invade a legitimate privacy interest protected by the Fourth Amendment. A grand jury’s subpoena duces tecum will be disallowed if it is “far too sweeping in its terms to be regarded as reasonable” under the Fourth Amendment. ... Judicial supervision is properly exercised in such cases to prevent the wrong before it occurs. ...

 

      In the instant case, the Court of Appeals held that the exclusionary rule of the Fourth Amendment limits the grand jury’s power to compel a witness to answer questions based on evidence obtained from a prior unlawful search and seizure. The exclusionary rule was adopted to effectuate the Fourth Amendment right of all citizens “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. ...” Under this rule, evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment cannot be used in a criminal proceeding against the victim of the illegal search and seizure. ... This prohibition applies as well to the fruits of the illegally seized evidence. ...

 

      The purpose of the exclusionary rule is not to redress the injury to the privacy of the search victim. ... Instead, the rule’s prime purpose is to deter future unlawful police conduct and thereby effectuate the guarantee of the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable search and seizures. ... In sum, the rule is a judicially created remedy designed to safeguard Fourth Amendment rights generally through its deterrent effect, rather than a personal constitutional right of the party aggrieved.

 

      Despite its broad deterrent purpose, the exclusionary rule has never been interpreted to proscribe the use of illegally seized evidence in all proceedings or against all persons. As with any remedial device, the application of the rule has been restricted to those areas where its remedial objectives are thought most efficaciously served. ...

 

      In deciding whether to extend the exclusionary rule to grand jury proceedings, we must weigh the potential injury to the historic role and functions of the grand jury against the potential benefits of the rule as applied in this context. It is evident that this extension of the exclusionary rule would seriously impede the grand jury. Because the grand jury does not finally adjudicate guilt or innocence, it has traditionally been allowed to pursue its investigative and accusatorial functions unimpeded by the evidentiary and procedural restrictions applicable to a criminal trial. Permitting witnesses to invoke the exclusionary rule before a grand jury would precipitate adjudication of issues hitherto reserved for the trial on the merits and would delay and disrupt grand jury proceedings. Suppression hearings would halt the orderly progress of an investigation and might necessitate extended litigation of issues only tangentially related to the grand jury’s primary objective. The probable result would be “protracted interruption of grand jury proceedings,” ... effectively transforming them into preliminary trials on the merits. In some cases the delay might be fatal to the enforcement of the criminal law. ... [W]e believe that allowing a grand jury witness to invoke the exclusionary rule would unduly interfere with the effective and expeditious discharge of the grand jury’s duties.

 

      Against this potential damage to the role and functions of the grand jury, we must weigh the benefits to be derived from this proposed extension of the exclusionary rule. Suppression of the use of illegally seized evidence against the search victim in a criminal trial is thought to be an important method of effectuating the Fourth Amendment. But it does not follow that the Fourth Amendment requires adoption of every proposal that might deter police misconduct. ...

 

      Any incremental deterrent effect which might be achieved by extending the rule to grand jury proceedings is uncertain at best. Whatever deterrence of police misconduct may result from the exclusion of illegally seized evidence from criminal trials, it is unrealistic to assume that application of the rule to grand jury proceedings would significantly further that goal. Such an extension would deter only police investigation consciously directed toward the discovery of evidence solely for use in a grand jury investigation. The incentive to disregard the requirement of the Fourth Amendment solely to obtain an indictment from a grand jury is substantially negated by the inadmissibility of the illegally seized evidence in a subsequent criminal prosecution of the search victim. For the most part, a prosecutor would be unlikely to request an indictment where a conviction could not be obtained. We therefore decline to embrace a view that would achieve a speculative and undoubtedly minimal advance in the deterrence of police misconduct at the expense of substantially impeding the role of the grand jury. ...

 

 

Mr. Justice Brennan, with whom Mr. Justice Douglas and Mr. Justice Marshall join, dissenting.

 

      The Court holds that the exclusionary rule in search-and-seizure cases does not apply to grand jury proceedings because the principal objective of the rule is “to deter future unlawful police conduct” ... and “it is unrealistic to assume that application of the rule to grand jury proceedings would significantly further that goal.” ...

 

      This downgrading of the exclusionary rule to a determination whether its application in a particular type of proceeding furthers deterrence of future police misconduct reflects a startling misconception, unless it is a purposeful rejection, of the historical objective and purpose of the rule.

 

      The commands of the Fourth Amendment are, of course, directed solely to public officials. Necessarily, therefore, only official violations of those commands could have created the evil that threatened to make the Amendment a dead letter. But curtailment of the evil, if a consideration at all, was at best only a hoped-for effect of the exclusionary rule, not its ultimate objective. Indeed, there is no evidence that the possible deterrent effect of the rule was given any attention by the judges chiefly responsible for its formulation. Their concern as guardians of the Bill of Rights was to fashion an enforcement tool to give content and meaning to the Fourth Amendment’s guarantees. ... Since, however, those judges were without power to direct or control the conduct of law enforcement officers, the enforcement tool had necessarily to be one capable of administration by judges. The exclusionary rule, if not perfect, accomplished the twin goals of enabling the judiciary to avoid the taint of partnership in official lawlessness and of assuring the people—all potential victims of unlawful government conduct—that the government would not profit from its lawless behavior, thus minimizing the risk of seriously undermining popular trust in government. ...