Academic journal article Brigham Young University Law Review

Lopez-Rodriguez V. Mukasey: The Ninth Circuit's Expansion of the Exclusionary Rule in Immigration Hearings Contradicts the Supreme Court's Lopez-Mendoza Decision

Academic journal article Brigham Young University Law Review

Lopez-Rodriguez V. Mukasey: The Ninth Circuit's Expansion of the Exclusionary Rule in Immigration Hearings Contradicts the Supreme Court's Lopez-Mendoza Decision

Article excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

In Lopez-Rodriguez v. Mukasey1 the Ninth Circuit faced the issue of whether statements by Lopez-Rodriguez, given to immigration officials after they entered Lopez- Rodriguez's residence without an invitation or warrant, should be suppressed in a civil immigration hearing.2 The court applied a reasonableness standard to the officers' actions and held that the evidence should be suppressed because the entry was an unreasonable violation of Lopez-Rodriguez's Fourth Amendment rights.3

The Ninth Circuit, however, wrongly decided Lopez-Rodriguez because the court applied a reasonableness standard that is an overly broad interpretation of Supreme Court precedent.4 The reasonableness standard is the established rule in the Ninth Circuit for the suppression of evidence in civil immigration cases.5 This rule has been extrapolated from dicta in the Supreme Court's 1984 Lopez-Mendoza decision, which created the bright-line rule that the exclusionary rule, which suppressing evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment, is not applicable in immigration hearings.6 However, in dicta supported by four Justices, a plurality allowed for an exception that allows for application of the exclusionary rule in instances of egregious Fourth Amendment violations.7 The Ninth Circuit's reasonableness standard is an excessively broad interpretation of the "egregious" dicta from LopezMendoza.

II. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Immigration officers visited the residence of Lopez- Rodriguez on a tip that someone there was using a false birth certificate.8 Lopez-Rodriguez apparently answered the door, but left the officers standing outside while she went to get her niece, Gastelum, whom the officers suspected was using a false birth certificate with the name Sugeyra.9 When the niece arrived, the door was slightly open.10 She looked out at the officers, but did not open the door when they asked for her name.11 While what happened next was disputed, the immigration judge ("IJ") found that the officers entered the house without obtaining consent - by apparently pushing the door open and walking inside.12 Once inside, the officers continued questioning the niece who soon admitted that she was using a false birth certificate.13 The officers arrested Gastelum, and they arrested LopezRodriguez under the suspicion that she was also in the country illegally. While in custody, both admitted to being in the country illegally.14

Lopez-Rodriguez filed a motion to suppress the evidence and testimony obtained by the officers, claiming an egregious Fourth Amendment violation had occurred. She claimed her niece's initial admission was given during an egregiously unconstitutional search of her residence; consequently, she argued the arrests were unlawful and statements made while in custody should be suppressed because the exclusionary rule may apply in civil immigration hearings if an egregious Fourth Amendment violation occurred.15 The IJ found "'some Fourth Amendment problems with the manner of entering and questioning,'" but held that the Fourth Amendment violation was not sufficientiy "egregious" to allow suppression.16 Both LopezRodriguez and Gastelum were ordered to be deported,17 and on a subsequent appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA"), the IT's decision was upheld.18

III. SIGNIFICANT LEGAL BACKGROUND

In 1984, the Supreme Court decided INS v. Lopez-Mendoza, in a five to four decision.19 This landmark case held that the exclusionary rule is inapplicable in immigration hearings.20 This section is divided into diree parts. First, it provides a summary of Lopez-Mendoza and how it opened the door for exceptions to its holding. Second, it addresses the narrow exceptions the First and Second Circuits have established regarding using the exclusionary rule in immigration hearings. Third, it describes the development of the reasonableness standard in the Ninth Circuit - which has opened the door to broad exceptions to Lopez-Mendoza. …

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