Rehearing Denied June 9, 1947.
Messrs. Roy St. Lewis, of Washington, D.C., and Herbert K. Hyde, of Oklahoma City, Okl., for petitioner.
Mr. Frederick Bernays Wiener, of Providence, R.I., for respondent.
Mr. Chief Justice VINSON delivered the opinion of the Court.
Petitioner was convicted on sixteen counts of an indictment1 charging the unlawful possession, concealment and [331 U.S. 145 , 147] alteration of certain Notice of Classification Cards and Registration Certificates in violation of 11 of the Selective Raining and Service Act of 1940,2 and of 48 of the Criminal Code. 3 Prior to the trial, petitioner moved to suppress the evidence, which served as the basis for the conviction, on the grounds that it had been obtained by means of an unreasonable search and seizure contrary to the provisions of the Fourth Amendment4 and that to permit the introduction of that evidence would be to violate the self-incrimination clause of the Fifth Amend- [331 U.S. 145 , 148] ment. 5 The motion to suppress was denied, and petitioner's numerous objections to the evidence at the trial were overruled. The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction. 10 Cir., 151 F.2d 837. Certiorari was granted because of the importance of the questio presented. .
Two valid warrants of arrest were issued. One charged that petitioner and one Moffett had violated the Mail Fraud Statute6 by causing a letter addressed to the Guaranty Trust Company of New York to be placed in the mails for the purpose of cashing a forged check for $25,000 drawn on the Mudge Oil Company in pursuance of a scheme to defraud. The second warrant charged that petitioner and Moffett, with intent to defraud certain banks and the Mudge Oil Company, had caused a $25,000 forged check to be transported in interstate commerce, in violation of 3 of the National Stolen Property Act. 7
Five agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, acting under the authority of the two warrants, went to the apartment of petitioner in Oklahoma City and there arrested him. The apartment consisted of a living room, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. Following the arrest, which took place in the living room, petitioner was handcuffed and a search of the entire apartment was undertaken. The agents stated that the object of the search was to find two $10,000 canceled checks of the Mudge Oil Company which had been stolen from that company's office and which were thought to have been used in effecting the forgery. There was evidence connecting petitioner with that theft. In addition, the search was said to be for the purpose of locating 'any means that might [331 U.S. 145 , 149] be used to commit these wo crimes, such as burglary tools, pens, or anything that could be used in a confidence game of this type.'8
One agent was assigned to each room of the apartment and, over petitioner's protest, a careful and thorough search proceeded for approximately five hours. As the search neared its end, one of the agents discovered in a bedroom bureau drawer a sealed envelope marked 'George Harris, personal papers.' The envelope was torn open and on the inside a smaller envelope was found containing eight Notice of Classification cards and 11 Registration Certificates bearing the stamp of Local Board No. 7 of Oklahoma County. It was this evidence upon which the conviction in the District Court was based and against which the motion to suppress was directed. It is conceded that the evidence is in no way related to the crimes for which petitioner was initially arrested and that the search which led to its discovery was not conducted under the authority of a search warrant. 9
In denying the motion to suppress the District Court wrote no opinion. The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed [331 U.S. 145 , 150] the conviction, finding that the search was carried on in good faith by the federal agents for the purposes expressed, that it was not a general exploratory search for merely evidentiary materials, and that the search and seizure were a reasonable incident to petitioner's arrest.