United States v. Alvarez-Sanchez, 511 U.S. 350 (1994)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit

No. 92-1812. Argued March 1, 1994—Decided May 2, 1994

Nearly three days after local law enforcement officers arrested respondent on state narcotics charges, and while he was still in the custody of those officers, respondent confessed to United States Secret Service agents that he knew that Federal Reserve Notes the local officers had discovered while searching his home were counterfeit. The agents arrested him for possessing counterfeit currency and presented him on a federal complaint the following day. The Federal District Court refused to suppress the confession, rejecting, inter alia, respondent's argument that the delay between his arrest on state charges and his presentment on the federal charge rendered the confession inadmissible under 18 U. S. C. 3501(c), which provides that a confession made while a defendant is "under arrest or other detention in the custody of any law-enforcement officer or law-enforcement agency, shall not be inadmissible solely because of delay in bringing such person before [a judicial officer] empowered to commit persons charged with offenses against the laws of the United States" if the confession was made voluntarily and "within six hours" following the arrest or other detention. Respondent was convicted. In vacating the conviction, the Court of Appeals reasoned that, by negative implication, 3501(c) permits suppression in cases where a confession is made outside the subsection's 6-hour post-arrest safe harbor period. The court concluded that 3501(c) applied to respondent's statement because respondent was in custody and had not been presented to a magistrate at the time he confessed, and held that the confession should have been suppressed.

Held: Section 3501(c) does not apply to statements made by a person who is being held solely on state charges. Pp. 355-360. (a) The subsection's text clearly indicates that its terms were never triggered in this case. Respondent errs in suggesting that, because the statute refers to a person in the custody of "any" law enforcement officer or agency, the 6-hour time period begins to run whenever a person is arrested by local, state, or federal officers. The subsection can apply only when there is some "delay" in presenting a person to a federal judicial officer. Because the term delay presumes an obligation to act, there can be no "delay" in bringing a person before a federal judicial officer until there is some obligation to do so in the first place. Such a

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