United States v. Calandra, 414 U.S. 338 (1974)

2012-09-19 13:44:42

The Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule directs that if evidence is seized in violation of a defendant’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, it cannot be used at trial to prove his guilt. In United States v. Calandra, the Supreme Court considered whether the exclusionary rule should apply to grand jury investigations.

Federal agents searched Calandra’s office and found a document that suggested Calandra might be receiving payments from an extortion victim. Calandra was subpoenaed to the grand jury to be questioned about that document. Although he received ‘‘testimonial and use immunity,’’ he still refused to testify, asserting that the document had been seized illegally, and therefore to allow the government to use it to question him in the grand jury would violate his Fourth Amendment rights. After a hearing, a federal judge agreed with Calandra on both points.

On appeal, the Supreme Court held that the lower court never should have held the hearing in the first place, because the exclusionary rule does not apply to grand jury investigations. The Court gave two reasons: the nature of the exclusionary rule and the nature of the grand jury.

The main purpose of the exclusionary rule, the Court stressed, is to deter police misconduct. Therefore, if applying the rule in a particular case is unlikely to deter other police from acting similarly in another case, there is no sense in applying the rule. Because it is unlikely police would conduct an unlawful search merely to gather material to ask someone questions in a grand jury, applying the rule in such a case would have little deterrent effect on future police conduct.

Moreover, applying the rule to grand jury investigations could interfere significantly with the grand jury s ability to fulfill its historic role: to decide whether a crime has been committed and, if so, who should be charged. A grand jury, the Court stressed, has the authority to investigate pretty much anything it wants and to consider whatever evidence it considered relevant, even if that evidence would not be admissible at trial. Permitting a witness to challenge the evidence used to question him would slow the process down without any significant deterrent impact on future police misconduct. Thus the rule has no application during grand jury investigations.


References and Further Reading

  • Exclusionary Rule: United States v. Calandra, 414 U.S. 338 (1974): 65 Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 460 (1974); Barone, Joseph J., Calandra—The Present Status of the Exclusionary Rule, 4 Cap. University Law Review 95 (1974–1975); Erb, John C., An Unexcited View of United States v. Calandra, Chicago-Kent Law Review 51 (1974–1975): 212; Marks, Thomas C. Jr., Mark A., Hanley, and Mark Thomas Luttier, Personal Right to Exclusion—A Criticism of United States v. Calandra, Stetson Law Review 9 (1979–1980): 309.
  • LaFave, Wayne R. Search and Seizure: a Treatise on the Fourth Amendment. 4th Ed. West, 2004, sections 1.6(a). 1:6(c), 1.7(b).

See also Exclusionary Rule