Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents
403 U.S. 388 (1971)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971)

Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents

of Federal Bureau of Narcotics

No. 301

Argued January 12, 1971

Decided June 21, 1971

403 U.S. 388

Syllabus

Petitioner's complaint alleged that respondent agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, acting under color of federal authority, made a warrantless entry of his apartment, searched the apartment, and arrested him on narcotics charges. All of the acts were alleged to have been done without probable cause. Petitioner's suit to recover damages from the agents was dismissed by the District Court on the alternative grounds (1) that it failed to state a federal cause of action and (2) that respondents were immune from suit by virtue of their official position. The Court of Appeals affirmed on the first ground alone.

Held:

1. Petitioner's complaint states a federal cause of action under the Fourth Amendment for which damages are recoverable upon proof of injuries resulting from the federal agents' violation of that Amendment. Pp. 403 U. S. 390-397.

2. The Court does not reach the immunity question, which was not passed on by the Court of Appeals. Pp. 403 U. S. 397-398.

409 F.2d 718, reversed and remanded.

BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which DOUGLAS, STEWART, WHITE, and MARSHALL, JJ., joined. HARLAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 403 U. S. 398. BURGER, C.J., post, p. 403 U. S. 411. BLACK, J., post, p. 403 U. S. 427, and BLACKMUN, J., post, p. 403 U. S. 430, filed dissenting opinions.

Page 403 U. S. 389

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Primary Holding

While there is no explicit right to file a civil lawsuit against federal government officials who have violated the Fourth Amendment, this right can be inferred. This is because a constitutional protection would not be meaningful if there were no way to seek a remedy for a violation of it.