United States v. Alvarez-Sanchez - 511 U.S. 350 (1994)


OCTOBER TERM, 1993

Syllabus

UNITED STATES v. ALVAREZ-SANCHEZ

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT

No. 92-1812. Argued March 1, 1994-Decided May 2,1994

Nearly three days after local law enforcement officers arrested respondent on state narcotics charges, and while he was still in the custody of those officers, respondent confessed to United States Secret Service agents that he knew that Federal Reserve Notes the local officers had discovered while searching his home were counterfeit. The agents arrested him for possessing counterfeit currency and presented him on a federal complaint the following day. The Federal District Court refused to suppress the confession, rejecting, inter alia, respondent's argument that the delay between his arrest on state charges and his presentment on the federal charge rendered the confession inadmissible under 18 U. S. C. § 3501(c), which provides that a confession made while a defendant is "under arrest or other detention in the custody of any lawenforcement officer or law-enforcement agency, shall not be inadmissible solely because of delay in bringing such person before [a judicial officer] empowered to commit persons charged with offenses against the laws of the United States" if the confession was made voluntarily and "within six hours" following the arrest or other detention. Respondent was convicted. In vacating the conviction, the Court of Appeals reasoned that, by negative implication, § 3501(c) permits suppression in cases where a confession is made outside the subsection's 6-hour post-arrest safe harbor period. The court concluded that § 3501 (c) applied to respondent's statement because respondent was in custody and had not been presented to a magistrate at the time he confessed, and held that the confession should have been suppressed.

Held: Section 3501(c) does not apply to statements made by a person who is being held solely on state charges. Pp. 355-360.

(a) The subsection's text clearly indicates that its terms were never triggered in this case. Respondent errs in suggesting that, because the statute refers to a person in the custody of "any" law enforcement officer or agency, the 6-hour time period begins to run whenever a person is arrested by local, state, or federal officers. The subsection can apply only when there is some "delay" in presenting a person to a federal judicial officer. Because the term delay presumes an obligation to act, there can be no "delay" in bringing a person before a federal judicial officer until there is some obligation to do so in the first place. Such a


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duty does not arise until the person is arrested or detained for a federal crime. Although a person arrested on a federal charge by any officerlocal, state, or federal-is under "arrest or other detention" for the purposes of § 3501(c) and its safe harbor period, one arrested on state charges is not. This is true even if the arresting officers believe or have cause to believe that federal law also has been violated, because such a belief does not alter the underlying basis for the arrest and subsequent custody. Pp. 355-358.

(b) Respondent was under arrest on state charges when he made his inculpatory statement to the Secret Service agents. Section 3501(c)'s terms thus did not come into play until he was arrested on a federal charge-after he made the statement. That he was never arraigned or prosecuted on the state charges does not alter this conclusion. Finally, there is no need to consider the situation that would arise if state or local authorities and federal officers act in collusion to obtain a confession in violation of a defendant's right to a prompt federal presentment, because in this case there was no such collusive arrangement, only routine cooperation between law enforcement agencies. Pp. 359-360.

975 F.2d 1396, reversed and remanded.

THOMAS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C. J., and BLACKMUN, O'CONNOR, SCALIA, KENNEDY, SOUTER, and GINSBURG, JJ., joined. GINSBURG, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which BLACKMUN, J., joined, post, p. 361. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 361.

Miguel A. Estrada argued the cause for the United States.

With him on the briefs were Solicitor General Days, Assistant Attorney General Harris, and Deputy Solicitor General Bryson.

Carlton F. Gunn argued the cause and filed a brief for respondent.

JUSTICE THOMAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case concerns the scope of 18 U. S. C. § 3501, the statute governing the admissibility of confessions in federal prosecutions. Respondent contends that § 3501(c), which provides that a custodial confession made by a person within six hours following his arrest "shall not be inadmissible solely because of delay in bringing such person" before a


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Full Text of Opinion

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