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United States v. Salerno

United States Supreme Court
481 U.S. 739 (1987)

United States v. Salerno


Congress passed the Bail Reform Act in 1984. The statute allowed a federal court to detain an arrestee before trial if the government could show by clear and convincing evidence that the safety of others would be jeopardized upon the arrestee's release. The statute required an adversary hearing, during which the arrestee had the right to have an attorney present and the right to testify and present his own witnesses, proffer evidence, and cross-examine the government’s witnesses. The decision whether to detain the arrestee was left to a judicial officer, but Congress outlined relevant factors to consider. Anthony Salerno (defendant) and another man were arrested after being charged on a 29-count indictment alleging violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). At Salerno’s arraignment, the government moved to have him detained pursuant to the Bail Reform Act. At the hearing, the government proffered evidence that Salerno was the “boss” of a powerful crime family who had furthered the crime family's illegal enterprises through violent means and had personally participated in two murder conspiracies. The district court granted the government’s detention motion, concluding that the government had met its burden of showing that no conditions of Salerno's release would ensure the safety of others or the community. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the Bail Reform Act was unconstitutional on its face as a violation of due process. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Rehnquist, C.J.)

Dissent (Stevens, J.)

Dissent (Marshall, J.)

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