CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT.
The writ of certiorari is dismissed as improvidently granted.
CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER, with whom JUSTICE BLACKMUN joins, dissenting.
We granted certiorari to decide the following question:
"Whether a defendant has a Fourth Amendment expectation of privacy that entitles him to challenge the search of a boat, which he had never personally used prior to the search and which had been out of his custody and control for two months at the time of the search, on the grounds that he was the owner of the boat and was a coventurer in a criminal enterprise involving the use of the boat by others to smuggle marijuana in which he had a possessory interest."
The question presented is one of considerable significance. It frequently arises in criminal prosecutions because drug smugglers often purchase vessels or airplanes for others to use in criminal enterprises. Given the massive infusion of dangerous drugs into this country by water and air we have
an obligation to decide the issue presented. The drug problem presents as great a danger to the United States as any foreign power or fiscal problem.
Here are the uncontested facts: Having solicited one Hunt to assist in a drug-smuggling scheme, respondent Quinn purchased a 54-foot vessel -- the Sea Otter -- and gave possession to Hunt. Hunt took the Sea Otter to Colombia and picked up roughly 12,000 pounds of marijuana, which he then delivered to Quinn's ranch in California. On June 27, 1979, California Fish and Game officials, suspecting that the Sea Otter had been engaged in unlawful fishing operations, boarded the vessel where they observed marijuana "debris" in plain view. They left and notified the United States Coast Guard and the Customs Service of their suspicions that the Sea Otter had been used in a marijuana-smuggling operation.
Federal officials intercepted the Sea Otter at sea and boarded. The crew could not produce documentation for the boat. Hunt admitted that he had not contacted either the Coast Guard or the Immigration and Naturalization Service, as required by law, when the vessel arrived at the California coast. The officials took the vessel to a nearby Coast Guard station. The forward holds were pumped out and material later identified as marijuana was discovered.
Quinn was arrested and charged with importation and possession of marijuana. He moved to suppress all evidence seized and obtained as result of the stop and search of the Sea Otter, arguing that his Fourth Amendment rights as the owner of the Sea Otter had been violated. The District Court found that because Quinn had turned the boat over to others he had no standing to contest the search. Quinn then entered a conditional guilty ...