Operation of the Rule: Standing

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.


Operation of the Rule: Standing.—The Court for a long period followed a rule of “standing” by which it determined whether a party was the appropriate person to move to suppress allegedly illegal evidence. Akin to Article III justiciability principles, which emphasize that one may ordinarily contest only those government actions that harm him, the standing principle in Fourth Amendment cases “require[d] of one who seeks to challenge the legality of a search as the basis for suppressing relevant evidence that he allege, and if the allegation be disputed that he establish, that he himself was the victim of an invasion of privacy.”519 Subsequently, the Court departed from the concept of standing to telescope the inquiry into one inquiry rather than two. Finding that standing served no useful analytical purpose, the Court has held that the issue of exclusion is to be determined solely upon a resolution of the substantive question whether the claimant’s Fourth Amendment rights have been violated. “We can think of no decided cases of this Court that would have come out differently had we concluded . . . that the type of standing requirement . . . reaffirmed today is more properly subsumed under substantive Fourth Amendment doctrine. Rigorous application of the principle that the rights secured by this Amendment are personal, in place of a notion of ‘standing,’ will produce no additional situations in which evidence must be excluded. The inquiry under either approach is the same.”520 One must therefore show that “the disputed search and seizure has infringed an interest of the defendant which the Fourth Amendment was designed to protect.”521

The Katz reasonable expectation of privacy rationale has now displaced property-ownership concepts that previously might have supported either standing to suppress or the establishment of an interest that has been invaded. Thus, it is no longer sufficient to allege possession or ownership of seized goods to establish the interest, if a justifiable expectation of privacy of the defendant was not violated in the seizure.522 Also, it is no longer sufficient that one merely be lawfully on the premises in order to be able to object to an illegal search; rather, one must show some legitimate interest in the premises that the search invaded.523 The same illegal search might, therefore, invade the rights of one person and not of another.524 Again, the effect of the application of the privacy rationale has been to narrow considerably the number of people who can complain of an unconstitutional search.

519 Jones v. United States, 362 U.S. 257, 261 (1960). That is, the movant must show that he was “a victim of search or seizure, one against whom the search was directed, as distinguished from one who claims prejudice only through the use of evidence gathered as a consequence of search or seizure directed at someone else.” Id. See Alderman v. United States, 394 U.S. 165, 174 (1969).

520 Rakas v. Illinois, 439 U.S. 128, 139 (1978).

521 439 U.S. at 140.

522 Previously, when ownership or possession was the issue, such as a charge of possessing contraband, the Court accorded “automatic standing” to one on the basis, first, that to require him to assert ownership or possession at the suppression hearing would be to cause him to incriminate himself with testimony that could later be used against him, and, second, that the government could not simultaneously assert that defendant was in possession of the items and deny that it had invaded his interests. Jones v. United States, 362 U.S. 257, 261–65 (1960). See also United States v. Jeffers, 342 U.S. 48 (1951). In Simmons v. United States, 390 U.S. 377 (1968), however, the Court held inadmissible at the subsequent trial admissions made in suppression hearings. When it then held that possession alone was insufficient to give a defendant the interest to move to suppress, because he must show that the search itself invaded his interest, the second consideration was mooted as well, and thus the “automatic standing” rule was overturned. United States v. Salvucci, 448 U.S. 83 (1980) (stolen checks found in illegal search of apartment of the mother of the defendant, in which he had no interest; defendant could not move to suppress on the basis of the illegal search); Rawlings v. Kentucky, 448 U.S. 98 (1980) (drugs belonging to defendant discovered in illegal search of friend’s purse, in which he had no privacy interest; admission of ownership insufficient to enable him to move to suppress).

523 Rakas v. Illinois, 439 U.S. 128 (1978) (passengers in automobile had no privacy interest in interior of the car; could not object to illegal search). United States v. Padilla, 508 U.S. 77 (1993) (only persons whose privacy or property interests are violated may object to a search on Fourth Amendment grounds; exerting control and oversight over property by virtue of participation in a criminal conspiracy does not alone establish such interests). Jones v. United States, 362 U.S. 257 (1960), had established the rule that anyone legitimately on the premises could object; the rationale was discarded but the result in Jones was maintained because he was there with permission, he had his own key, his luggage was there, he had the right to exclude and therefore a legitimate expectation of privacy. Similarly maintained were the results in United States v. Jeffers, 342 U.S. 48 (1951) (hotel room rented by defendant’s aunts to which he had a key and permission to store things); Mancusi v. DeForte, 392 U.S. 364 (1968) (defendant shared office with several others; though he had no reasonable expectation of absolute privacy, he could reasonably expect to be intruded on only by other occupants and not by police).

524 E.g., Rawlings v. Kentucky, 448 U.S. 98 (1980) (fearing imminent police search, defendant deposited drugs in companion’s purse where they were discovered in course of illegal search; defendant had no legitimate expectation of privacy in her purse, so that his Fourth Amendment rights were not violated, although hers were).