United States v. Caceres
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440 U.S. 741 (1979)
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U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. Caceres, 440 U.S. 741 (1979)
United States v. Caceres
Argued January 8, 9, 1979
Decided April 2, 1979
440 U.S. 741
Regulations in the Internal Revenue Service Manual prohibit "consensual electronic surveillance" between taxpayers and IRS agents unless certain specified prior authorization is obtained. With respect to the monitoring of face-to-face (nontelephone) conversations, the Director of the Internal Security Division or the Assistant Commissioner (Inspection) of the IRS may authorize the recording of such conversations in emergency situations, but if there is at least 48 hours in which to obtain approval, a signed request must also be submitted to the Attorney General or a designated Assistant Attorney General. In connection with the audit of the income tax returns of respondent and his wife, an IRS agent met with respondent on, among other dates, January 31 and February 6, 1975. Emergency approval for the use of electronic equipment at both meetings was obtained, pending a request to the Justice Department for authority to monitor conversations with respondent for a 30-day period, but such authority was never obtained for the January 31 and February 6 meetings. At these meetings, respondent, unaware of the surveillance, paid or offered money to the agent for a favorable resolution of the audit. The agent at both meetings wore a concealed radio transmitter which allowed other agents to monitor and record the conversations. Subsequently, respondent was prosecuted for bribing the IRS agent. At his trial, he moved to suppress tape recordings of the conversations on the ground that the authorizations required by the IRS regulations had not been secured. The District Court granted the motion, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. Both courts held that the meetings had not been monitored in accordance with the IRS regulations, concluding that neither meeting fell within the emergency provision of the regulations because the exigencies were the product of "government-created scheduling problems."
Held: The tape recordings, and the testimony of the agents who monitored the meetings in question, were not required to be excluded from evidence because of the conceded violation of the IRS regulations. Pp. 440 U. S. 749-757.
(a) While a court has a duty to enforce an agency regulation when compliance with the regulation is mandated by the Constitution or federal law, here the agency was not required either by the Constitution, Lopez v. United States, 373 U. S. 427; United States v. White, 401 U.S.
(b) None of respondent's constitutional rights was violated either by the actual recording or by the agency's violation of its own regulations. That respondent's conversations were monitored without Justice Department approval, whereas conversations of others similarly situated would, assuming the IRS generally follows its own regulations, be recorded only with such approval, does not amount to a denial of equal protection. Nor does the IRS officials' construction of the situation as an emergency, even if erroneous, raise any constitutional questions. And this is not a case in which the Due Process Clause is implicated, since respondent cannot reasonably contend that he relied on the regulations or that their breach had any effect on his conduct. Finally, the Administrative Procedure Act provides no grounds for judicial enforcement of the violated regulations, since the remedy sought is not invalidation of the agency action, but rather judicial enforcement of the regulations by means of the exclusionary rule. Pp. 440 U. S. 751-755.
(c) This Court declines to adopt any rigid exclusionary rule, such as is urged by respondent, whereby all evidence obtained in violation of regulations concerning electronic eavesdropping would be excluded. Nor can this Court accept respondent's further argument that, even without a rigid rule of exclusion, his is a case in which evidence secured in violation of agency regulations should be excluded under a more limited, individualized approach, since, to the contrary, this case exemplifies those situations in which evidence would not be excluded under a case-by-case approach, it appearing that the agency action, though later found to violate the regulations, nonetheless reflected a reasonable, good faith attempt to comply in a situation in which monitoring was appropriate and would have received Justice Department approval if the request had been received more promptly. Pp. 440 U. S. 755-757.
545 F.2d 1182, reversed.
STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 440 U. S. 757.