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LEFKOWITZ v. NEWSOME

decided: February 19, 1975.

LEFKOWITZ, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF NEW YORK
v.
NEWSOME



CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT.

Stewart, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Douglas, Brennan, Marshall, and Blackmun, JJ., joined. White, J., post, p. 294, and Powell, J., post, p. 302, filed dissenting opinions, in which Burger, C. J., and Rehnquist, J., joined.

Author: Stewart

[ 420 U.S. Page 284]

 MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

The respondent Leon Newsome was arrested pursuant to N. Y. Penal Law § 240.35 (6) for loitering in the lobby of a New York City Housing Authority apartment building. A search of Newsome conducted at the time of his arrest produced a small quantity of heroin and related narcotics paraphernalia. Consequently, in addition to the offense of loitering, he was also charged with possession of a dangerous drug, fourth degree, N. Y. Penal Law § 220.05 (now codified, as modified, as N. Y. Penal Law § 220.03), and criminally possessing a hypodermic instrument. N. Y. Penal Law § 220.45.

The New York City Criminal Court conducted a non-jury trial on the loitering charge and a hearing on Newsome's motion to suppress the evidence seized at the time of his arrest. Newsome argued that the arresting officer did not have probable cause for the loitering arrest, that there was insufficient evidence to support a loitering conviction, and that the loitering statute was unconstitutional and therefore could not serve as the basis for either a loitering conviction or a lawful search incident to arrest. The court rejected these arguments, found Newsome guilty of loitering, and denied the motion to suppress.

One month later, on the date scheduled for trial on the drug charges, Newsome withdrew his prior pleas of not guilty and pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of attempted possession of dangerous drugs. N. Y. Penal Law § 110. He was immediately sentenced to 90 days' imprisonment on the attempted-possession conviction and received an unconditional release on the loitering conviction.

[ 420 U.S. Page 285]

     At the sentencing proceeding Newsome indicated his intention to appeal both the loitering conviction and the denial of his motion to suppress the drugs and related paraphernalia seized at the time of his arrest. Appeal of the adverse decision on the motion to suppress was authorized by N. Y. Code Crim. Proc. § 813-c (now recodified as N. Y. Crim. Proc. Law §§ 710.20 (1), 710.70 (2)), which provided that an order denying a motion to suppress evidence alleged to have been obtained as a result of unlawful search and seizure "may be reviewed on appeal from a judgment of conviction notwithstanding the fact that such judgment of conviction is predicated upon a plea of guilty."*fn1

On direct appeal to the Appellate Term of the New York Supreme Court, the loitering conviction was reversed for insufficient evidence and a defective information. Because the court held that there was probable cause to arrest Newsome for loitering, however, the search incident to that arrest was upheld and the drug conviction affirmed. Newsome sought further review of the drug conviction, but leave to appeal to the New York Court of Appeals was denied. This Court denied a petition for a writ of certiorari. Newsome v. New York, 405 U.S. 908.

Newsome then filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the District Court for the Eastern District of

[ 420 U.S. Page 286]

     New York. The petition reiterated the claim that the loitering statute was unconstitutional, that Newsome's arrest was therefore invalid, and that as a result the evidence seized incident to that arrest should have been suppressed. Prior to the District Court's decision on the merits of Newsome's petition,*fn2 the New York Court of Appeals declared New York's loitering statute unconstitutional. People v. Berck, 32 N. Y. 2d 567, 300 N. E. 2d 411. In light of the Berck decision, the District Court granted Newsome's application for a writ of habeas corpus.

The petitioner, the Attorney General of New York, who had been granted leave by the District Court to intervene as a respondent in the habeas corpus proceeding, appealed. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the judgment of the District Court, United States ex rel. Newsome v. Malcolm, 492 F.2d 1166, adhering to its earlier rulings that a New York defendant who has utilized state procedures to appeal the denial of a motion to suppress may pursue his constitutional claim on a federal habeas corpus petition although the conviction was based on a plea of guilty. Id., at 1169-1171. The court held that New York's loitering statute violated due process because it failed to specify adequately the conduct it proscribed and failed to provide sufficiently clear guidance for police, prosecutors, and the courts so that they could enforce the statute in a manner consistent with the constitutional requirement that arrests be based on probable cause. Id., at 1171-1174.

[ 420 U.S. Page 287]

     Accordingly, the court held that because Newsome was searched incident to an arrest for the violation of a statute found to be unconstitutional on the ground that it substituted mere suspicion for probable cause as the basis for arrest, the search of Newsome was also constitutionally invalid. The court concluded that the evidence seized should have been suppressed, and affirmed the District Court's judgment granting the writ of habeas corpus. Id., at 1174-1175.

The Attorney General of New York sought review here of both the Court of Appeals' decision that Newsome had not waived his right to file a federal habeas corpus petition by pleading guilty and its decision as to the constitutionality of New York's loitering statute. Because of a conflict between the judgment in the present case and a decision of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit,*fn3 we granted certiorari limited to the question of a defendant's right to file a federal habeas corpus petition challenging the lawfulness of a search or the voluntariness of a confession or presenting other constitutional claims when a State provides for appellate review of those issues after a guilty plea. 417 U.S. 967.*fn4

[ 420 U.S. Page 288]

     I

In contending that Newsome is precluded from raising his constitutional claims in this federal habeas corpus proceeding, the petitioner relies primarily on this Court's decisions in the guilty-plea trilogy of Brady v. United States, 397 U.S. 742, McMann v. Richardson, 397 U.S. 759, and Parker v. North Carolina, 397 U.S. 790, and on our decision in Tollett v. Henderson, 411 U.S. 258. The Brady trilogy announced the general rule that a guilty plea, intelligently and voluntarily made, bars the later assertion of constitutional challenges to the pretrial proceedings. This principle was reaffirmed in Tollett v. Henderson, supra, at 267: "When a criminal defendant has solemnly admitted in open court that he is in fact guilty of the offense with which he is charged, he may not thereafter raise independent claims relating to the deprivation of constitutional rights that occurred prior to the entry of the guilty plea."

But the Court also suggested in the Brady trilogy that an exception to this general rule might be proper when a State decides to permit a defendant to appeal from an adverse ruling in a pretrial hearing despite the fact that his conviction is based on a guilty plea. See McMann v. Richardson, supra, at 766, and n. ...


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