Monday, October 03, 2005

Motion to Suppress Should Exclude Identity

As discussed in a prior blog entry, a major issue to be revisited is whether the exclusionary rule should be applied in immigration court to prevent the government from using evidence that it improperly obtained. The major issue is how the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1984 that it was not going to apply the exclusionary rule to mass arrests in the field for deportation cases. The Supreme Court left open the possibility of changing its mind depending on how much the government officials improved or regressed in their conduct.

One minor issue is how to interpret the Supreme Court's ruling that it is impossible to suppress the actual body of the person apprehended. Does this mean that you can try to suppress everything improperly obtained, but of course you can't ignore that they have the person in court? Immigration advocates read the decision in this way -- you can't challenge jurisdiction over the person (that the person is in fact standing in court), but you can still challenge the use of any information improperly obtained (such as coerced admissions of the person's name and where he was born).

A number of federal courts agree with this interpretation. One is United States v. Guevara-Martinez in 2000 in the Distrcit of Nebraska district court. The Supreme Court's language only dealt with the issue of jurisdiction over the person, but not whether evidence about the defendant's identity had been illegally obtained. Therefore, in Guevara-Martinez, the district court ruled that the individual's identity can be suppressed in a criminal case where the government illegally arrested the person (and without that arrest, they would not be able to bring the identity information to court). Another district court in South Dakota agreed in United States v. Mendoza-Carrillo, 2000 WL 1159114, *7 (D.S.D. 2000). But two circuits as of 2000 ruled the other way: United States v. Roque-Villanueva, 175 F.3d 345, 346 (5th Cir. 1999); United States v. Guzman-Bruno, 27 F.3d 420, 421-22 (9th Cir. 1994).

First thing is first, though, we need to prove that the exclusionary rule applies in immigration cases. The second step will be to explain that where the rule applies, it prohibits the use of any identity information if the person was captured through an illegal arrest.


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