THE LONG ARM OF THE LAW
Rene Martin Verdugo-Urquidez was driving in San Felipe, Mexico on a winter's day in 1986 when he was stopped by several Mexican police officers. The officers arrested Verdugo-Urquidez, placed him in the back of an unmarked car, and forced him to lie down on the seat with his face covered by a jacket. A Mexican citizen, erdugoUrquidez was believed to be one of the leading members of a major drug cartel and was suspected of participating in the brutal murder of Enrique Camarena-Salazar, an agent of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). After a two-hour drive north the Mexican officers walked Verdugo-Urquidez to the international border, where he was transferred to U.S. Border Patrol agents.1 He was then brought to a federal detention center in San Diego. Working with the Mexican Federal Judicial Police, DEA agents based in Mexico searched Verdugo-Urquidez's residences in Mexicali and San Felipe, where they found incriminating documents relating to drug trafficking.
This seemingly smooth example of international police cooperation ran into a hurdle once Verdugo-Urquidez faced trial in the United States. His lawyers sought to suppress the evidence, arguing that it had been obtained without a warrant and in violation of the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” The district court agreed, declaring that the Fourth Amendment applied to the search in Mexico. The court called the search a “joint venture” of the DEA and the Mexican police. Because the DEA had failed to obtain a warrant, and because the search was improperly handled, the district court held that the incriminating evidence had to be suppressed pursuant to what is usually called the “exclusionary rule.”2
The Reagan administration immediately appealed the ruling. Drug trafficking had become a major concern of the United States in the 1980s, and the DEA overseas activities at issue in the Verdugo-Urquidez case were an