United States v. Brignoni-Ponce,
422 U.S. 873 (1975)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. 873 (1975)

United States v. Brignoni-Ponce

No. 74-114

Argued February 18, 1975

Decided June 30, 1975

422 U.S. 873


The Fourth Amendment held not to allow a roving patrol of the Border Patrol to stop a vehicle near the Mexican border and question its occupants about their citizenship and immigration status, when the only ground for suspicion is that the occupants appear to be of Mexican ancestry. Except at the border and its functional equivalents, patrolling officers may stop vehicles only if they are aware of specific articulable facts, together with rational inferences therefrom, reasonably warranting suspicion that the vehicles contain aliens who may be illegally in the country. Pp. 422 U. S. 878-887.

(a) Because of the important governmental interest in preventing the illegal entry of aliens at the border, the minimal intrusion of a brief stop, and the absence of practical alternatives for policing the border, an officer whose observations lead him reasonably to suspect that a particular vehicle may contain aliens who are illegally in the country may stop the car briefly, question the driver and passengers about their citizenship and immigration status, and ask them to explain suspicious circumstances; but any further detention or search must be based on consent or probable cause. Pp. 422 U. S. 878-882.

(b) To allow roving patrols the broad and unlimited discretion urged by the Government to stop all vehicles in the border area without any reason to suspect that they have violated any law, would not be "reasonable" under the Fourth Amendment. Pp. 422 U. S. 882-883.

(c) Assuming that Congress has the power to admit aliens on condition that they submit to reasonable questioning about their right to be in the country, such power cannot diminish the Fourth Amendment rights of citizens who may be mistaken for aliens. The Fourth Amendment therefore forbids stopping persons for questioning about their citizenship on less than a reasonable suspicion that they may be aliens. Pp. 422 U. S. 883-884.

499 F.2d 1109, affirmed.

Page 422 U. S. 874

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, STEWART, MARSHALL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 422 U. S. 887. BURGER, C.J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which BLACKMUN, J., joined, post, p. 422 U. S. 899. DOUGLAS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 422 U. S. 888. WHITE, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which BLACKMUN, J., joined, post, p. 422 U. S. 914.

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