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[267 U.S. 132, 136] Messrs. Thomas E. Atkinson and Clare J. Hall, both of Grand Rapids, Mich., for plaintiffs in error.
[267 U.S. 132, 143] The Attorney General and Mr. James M. Beck, Sol. Gen., of Washington, D. C., for the United States.
Mr. Chief Justice TAFT, after stating the case as above, delivered the opinion of the Court.
The constitutional and statutory provisions involved in this case include the Fourth Amendment and the National Prohibition Act.
The Fourth Amendment is in part as follows:
Section 25, title 2, of the National Prohibition Act, c. 85, 41 Stat. 305, 315, passed to enforce the Eighteenth Amendment, makes it unlawful to have or possess any liquor intended for use in violating the act, or which has been so used, and provides that no property rights shall exist in such inquor. A search warrant may issue and such liquor, with the containers thereof, may be seized under the warrant and be ultimately destroyed. The section further provides:
Section 26, title 2, under which the seizure herein was made, provides in part as follows:
The section then provides that the court upon conviction of the person so arrested shall order the liquor destroyed, and except for good cause shown shall order a sale by public auction of the other property seized, and that the proceeds shall be paid into the Treasury of the United States.
By section 6 of an act supplemental to the National Prohibition Act ( 42 Stat. 222, 223, c. 134 [Comp. St. Ann. Supp. 1923, 10184a]) it is provided that if any officer or agent or employee of the United States engaged in the enforcement of the Prohibition Act or this Amendment, 'shall search any private dwelling,' as defined in that act, 'without a warrant directing such search,' or 'shall without a search warrant maliciously and without reasonable cause search any other building or property,' he shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to fine or imprisonment or both.
In the passage of the supplemental act through the Senate, amendment No. 32, known as the Stanley Amendment, was adopted, the relevant part of which was as follows:
This amendment was objected to in the House, and the judiciary committee, to whom it was referred, reported to the House of Representatives the following as a substitute:
In its report the committee spoke in part as follows:
The conference report resulted, so far as the difference between the two houses was concerned, in providing for the punishment of any officer, agent, or employee of the government who searches a 'private dwelling' without a warrant, and for the punishment of any such officer, [267 U.S. 132, 147] etc., who searches any 'other building or property' where, and only where, he makes the search without a warrant 'maliciously and without probable cause.' In other words, it left the way open for searching an automobile or vehicle of transportation without a warrant, if the search was not malicious or without probable cause.
The intent of Congress to make a distinction between the necessity for a search warrant in the searching of private dwellings and in that of automobiles and other road vehicles in the enforcement of the Prohibition Act is thus clearly established by the legislative history of the Stanley Amendment. Is such a distinction consistent with the Fourth Amendment? We think that it is, The Fourth Amendment does not denounce all searches or seizures, but only such as are unreasonable.
The leading case on the subject of search and seizure is Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616 , 6 S. Ct. 524. An Act of Congress of June 22, 1874 (18 Stat. 187), authorized a court of the United States in revenue cases, on motion of the government attorney, to require the defendant to produce in court his private books, invoices, and papers on pain in case of refusal of having the allegations of the attorney in his motion taken as confessed. This was held to be unconstitutional and void as applied to suits for penalties or to establish a forfeiture of goods, on the ground that under the Fourth Amendment the compulsory production of invoices to furnish evidence for forfeiture of goods constituted an unreasonable search even where made upon a search warrant, and was also a violation of the Fifth Amendment, in that it compelled the defendant in a criminal case to produce evidence against himself or be in the attitude of confessing his guilt.
In Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383 , 34 S. Ct. 341, L. R. A. 1915B, 834, Ann. Cas. 1915C, 1177, it was held that a court in a criminal prosecution could not retain letters of the accused seized in his house, in his absence and without his authority, by a United States marshal [267 U.S. 132, 148] holding no warrant for his arrest and none for the search of his premises, to be used as evidence against him, the accused having made timely application to the court for an order for the return of the letters.
In Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States, 251 U.S. 385 , 40 S. Ct. 182, a writ of error was brought to reverse a judgment of contempt of the District Court, fining the company and imprisoning one Silverthorne, its president, until he should purge himself of contempt in not producing books and documents of the company before the grand jury to prove violation of the statutes of the United States by the company and Silverthorne. Silverthorne had been arrested, and while under arrest the marshal had gone to the office of the company without a warrant and made a clean sweep of all books, papers, and documents found there and had taken copies and photographs of the papers. The District Court ordered the return of the originals, but impounded the photographs and copies. This was held to be an unreasonable search of the property and possessions of the corporation and a violation of the Fourth Amendment and the judgment for contempt was reversed.
In Gouled v. United States, 255 U.S. 298 , 41 S. Ct. 261, the obtaining through stealth by a representative of the government from the office of one suspected of defrauding the government of a paper which had no pecuniary value in itself, but was only to be used as evidence against its owner, was held to be a violation of the Fourth Amendment. It was further held that when the paper was offered in evidence and duly objected to it must be ruled inadmissible because obtained through an unreasonable search and seizure and also in violation of the Fifth Amendment because working compulsory incrimination.
In Amos v. United States, 255 U.S. 313 , 41 S. Ct. 266, it was held that where concealed liquor was found by government officers without a search warrant in the home of the defendant, [267 U.S. 132, 149] in his absence, and after a demand made upon his wife, it was inadmissible as evidence against the defendant, because acquired by an unreasonable seizure.
In none of the cases cited is there any ruling as to the validity under the Fourth Amendment of a seizure without a warrant of contraband goods in the course of transportation and subject to forfeiture or destruction.
On reason and authority the true rule is that if the search and seizure without a warrant are made upon probable cause, that is, upon a belief, reasonably arising out of circumstaces known to the seizing officer, that an automobile or other vehicle contains that which by law is subject to seizure and destruction, the search and seizure are valid. The Fourth Amendment is to be construed in the light of what was deemed an unreasonable search and seizure when it was adopted, and in a manner which will conserve public interests as well as the interests and rights of individual citizens.
In Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616 , 6 S. Ct. 524, as already said, the decision did not turn on whether a reasonable search might be made without a warrant; but for the purpose of showing the principle on which the Fourth Amendment proceeds, and to avoid any misapprehension of what was decided, the court, speaking through Mr. Justice Bradley, used language which is of particular significance and applicability here. It was there said (page 623 [6 S. Ct. 528]):
It is noteworthy that the twenty-fourth section of the act of 1789 to which the court there refers provides:
Like provisions were contained in the Act of August 4, 1790, c. 35, 48-51, 1 Stat. 145, 170; in section 27 of the Act of February 18, 1793, c. 8, 1 Stat. 305, 315; and in sections 68-71 of the Act of March 2, 1799, c. 22, 1 Stat. 627, 677, 678.
Thus contemporaneously with the adoption of the Fourth Amendment we find in the First Congress, and in the following Second and Fourth Congresses, a difference made as to the necessity for a search warrant between goods subject to forfeiture, when concealed in a dwelling house or similar place, and like goods in course of transportation and concealed in a movable vessel where they readily could be put out of reach of a search warrant. Compare Hester v. United States, 265 U.S. 57 , 44 S. Ct. 445.
Again, by the second section of the Act of March 3, 1815, 3 Stat. 231, 232, it was made lawful for customs officers, not only to board and search vessels within their own and adjoining districts, but also to stop, search, and examine any vehicle, beast, or person on which or whom they should suspect there was merchandise which was subject to duty or had been introduced into the United States in any manner contrary to law, whether by the person in charge of the vehicle or beast or otherwise, and if they should find any goods, wares or merchandise thereon, which they had probable cause to believe had been so unlawfully brought into the country, to seize and secure the same, and the vehicle or beast as well, for trial [267 U.S. 132, 152] and forfeiture. This act was renewed April 27, 1816 (3 Stat. 315), for a year and expired. The Act of February 28, 1865, revived section 2 of the Act of 1815, above described, 13 Stat. 441, c. 67. The substance of this section was re-enacted in the third section of the Act of July 18, 1866, c. 201, 14 Stat. 178, and was thereafter embodied in the Revised Statutes as section 3061 (Comp. St. 5763). Neither section 3061 nor any of its earlier counterparts has ever been attacked as unconstitutional. Indeed, that section was referred to and treated as operative by this court in Cotzhausen v. Nazro, 107 U.S. 215, 219 , 2 S. Ct. 503. See, also, United States v. One Black Horse (D C.) 129 F. 167.
Again by section 2140 of the Revised Statutes (Comp. St. 4141) any Indian agent, subagent or commander of a military post in the Indian country, having reason to suspect or being informed that any white person or Indian is about to introduce, or has introduced, any spirituous liquor or wine into the Indian country, in violation of law, may cause the boats, stores, packages, wagons, sleds and places of deposit of such person to be searched and if any liquor is found therein, then it, together with the vehicles, shall be seized and and proceeded against by libel in the proper court and forfeited. Section 2140 was the outgrowth of the Act of May 6, 1822, c. 58, 3 Stat. 682, authorizing Indian agents to cause the goods of traders in the Indian country to be searched upon suspicion or information that ardent spirits were being introduced into the Indian country to be seized and forfeited if found, and of the Act of June 30, 1834, 20, c. 161, 4 Stat. 729, 732, enabling an Indian agent having reason to suspect any person of having introduced or being about to introduce liquors into the Indian country to cause the boat, stores or places of deposit of such person to be searched and the liquor found forfeited. This court recognized the statute of 1822 as justifying such a search and seizure in American Fur Co. v. United States, 2 Pet. 358. By the Indian [267 U.S. 132, 153] Appropriation Act of March 2, 1917, c. 146, 39 Stat. 969, 970, automobiles used in introducing or attempting to introduce intoxicants into the Indian territory may be seized, libeled, and forfeited as provided in the Revised Statutes, 2140
And again in Alaska, by section 174 of the Act of March 3, 1899, c. 429, 30 Stat. 1253, 1280, it is provided that collectors and deputy collectors or any person authorized by them in writing shall be given power to arrest persons and seize vessels and merchandise in Alaska liable to fine, penalties, or forfeiture under the act and to keep and deliver the same, and the Attorney General, in construing the act, advised the government:
We have made a somewhat extended reference to these statutes to show that the guaranty of freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures by the Fourth Amendment has been construed, practically since the beginning of the government, as recognizing a necessary difference between a search of a store, dwelling house, or other structure in respect of which a proper official warrant readily may be obtained and a search of a ship, motor boat, wagon, or automobile for contraband goods, where it is not practicable to secure a warrant, because the vehicle can be quickly moved out of the locality or jurisdiction in which the warrant must be sought.
Having thus established that contraband goods concealed and illegally transported in an automobile or other vehicle may be searched for without a warrant, we come now to consider under what circumstances such search may be made. It would be intolerable and unreasonable [267 U.S. 132, 154] if a prohibition agent were authorized to stop every automobile on the chance of finding liquor, and thus subject all persons lawfully using the highways to the inconvenience and indignity of such a search. Travelers may be so stopped in crossing an international boundary because of national self-protection reasonably requiring one entering the country to identify himself as entitled to come in, and his belongings as effects which may be lawfully brought in. But those lawfully within the country, entitled to use the public highways, have a right to free passage without interruption or search unless there is known to a competent official, authorized to search, probable cause for believing that their vehicles are carrying contraband or illegal merchandise. Section 26, title 2, of the National Prohibition Act, like the second section of the act of 1789, for the searching of vessels, like the provisions of the act of 1815, and section 3601, Revised Statutes, for searching vehicles for smuggled goods, and like the act of 1822, and that of 1834 and section 2140, R. S., and the act of 1917 for the search of vehicles and automobiles for liquor smuggled into the Indian country, was enacted primarily to accomplish the seizure and destruction of contraband goods; secondly, the automobile was to be forfeited; and, thirdly, the driver was to be arrested. Under section 29, title 2, of the act the latter might be punished by not more than $500 fine for the first offense, not more than $1,000 fine and 90 days' imprisonment for the second offense, and by a fine of $500 or more and by not more than 2 years' imprisonment for the third offense. Thus he is to be arrested for a misdemeanor for his first and second offenses, and for a felony if he offends the third time.
The main purpose of the act obviously was to deal with the liquor and its transportation, and to destroy it. The mere manufacture of liquor can do little to defeat the policy of the Eighteenth Amendment and the Prohibition Act, unless the for [267 U.S. 132, 155] bidden product can be distributed for illegal sale and use. Section 26 was intended to reach and destroy the forbidden liquor in transportation and the provisions for forfeiture of the vehicle and the arrest of the transporter were incidental. The rule for determining what may be required before a seizure may be made by a competent seizing official is not to be determined by the character of the penalty to which the transporter may be subjected. Under section 28, title 2, of the Prohibition Act, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, his assistants, agents and inspectors are to have the power and protection in the enforcement of the act conferred by the existing laws relating to the manufacture or sale of intoxicating liquors. Officers who seize under section 26 of the Prohibition Act are therefore protected by section 970 of the Revised Statutes (Comp. St. 1611), providing that:
It follows from this that, if an officer seizes an autombile or the liquor in it without a warrant, and the facts as subsequently developed do not justify a judgment of condemnation and forfeiture, the officer may escape costs or a suit for damages by a showing that he had reasonable or probable cause for the seizure. Stacey v. Emery, 97 U.S. 642 . The measure of legality of such a seizure is, [267 U.S. 132, 156] therefore, that the seizing officer shall have reasonable or probable cause for believing that the antomobile which he stops and seizes has contraband liquor therein which is being illegally transported.
We here find the line of distrinction between legal and illegal seizures of liquor in transport in vehicles. It is certainly a reasonable distinction. It gives the owner of an automobile or other vehicle seized under section 26, in absence of probable cause, a right to have restored to him the automobile, it protects him under the Weeks and Amos Cases from use of the liquor as evidence against him, and it subjects the officer making the seizures to damages. On the other hand, in a case showing probalbe cause, the government and its officials are given the opportunity which they should have, to make the investigation necessary to trace reasonably suspected contraband goods and to seize them.
Such a rule fulfills the guaranty of the Fourth Amendment. In cases where the securing of a warrant is reasonably practicable, it must be used and when properly supported by affidavit and issued after judicial approval protects the seizing officer against a suit for damages. In cases where seizure is impossible except without warrant, the seizing officer acts unlawfully and at his peril unless he can show the court probable cause. United States v. Kaplan (D. C.) 286 F. 963, 972.
But we are pressed with the argument that if the search of the automobile discloses the presence of liquor and leads under the staute to the arrest of the person in charge of the automobile, the right of seizure should be limited by the common-law rule as to the circumstances justifying an arrest without a warrant for a misdemeanor. The usual rule is that a police officer may arrest without warrant one believed by the officer upon reasonable cause to have been guilty of a felony, and that he may only arrest without a warrant one guilty of a misdemeanor if committed [267 U.S. 132, 157] in his presence. Kurtz v. Moffitt, 115 U.S. 487 , 6 S. Ct. 148; John Bad Elk v. United States, 177 U.S. 529 , 20 S. Ct. 729. The rule is sometimes expressed as follows:
The reason for arrest for misdemeanors without warrant at common law was promptly to suppress breaches of the peace (1 Stephen, History of Criminal Law, 193), while the reason for arrest without warrant on a reliable report of a felony was because the public safety and the due apprehension of criminals charged with heinous offenses required that such arrests should be made at once without warrant (Rohan v. Sawin, 5 Cush. [ Mass.] 281). The argument for defendants is that, as the misdemeanor to justify arrest without warrant must be committed in the presence of the police officer, the offense is not committed in his presence unless he can by his senses detect that the liquor is being transported, no matter how reliable his previous information by which he can identify the automobile as loaded with it. Elrod v. Moss (C. C. A.) 278 F. 123; Hughes v. State, 145 Tenn. 544, 238 S. W. 588, 20 A. L. R. 639.
So it is that under the rule contended for by defendants the liquor if carried by one who has been already twice convicted of the same offense may be seized on information other than the senses, while if he has been only once convicted it may not be seized unless the presence of the liquor is detected by the senses as the automobile concealing it rushes by. This is certainly a very unsatisfactory line of difference when the main object of the section is to forfeit and suppress the liquor, the arrest of the individual being only incidental as shown by the lightness [267 U.S. 132, 158] of the penalty. See Commonwealth v. Street, 3 Pa. Dist. and Co. Ct. Rep. 783. In England at the common law the difference in punishment between felonies and misdemeanors was very great. Under our present federal statutes, it is much less important and Congress may exercise a relatively wide discretion in classing particular offenses as felonies or misdemeanors. As the main purpose of section 26 was seizure and forfeiture, it is not so much the owner as the property that offends. Agnew v. Haymes, 141 F. 631, 641, 72 C. C. A. 325. The language of the section provides for seizure when the officer of the law 'discovers' any one in the act of transporting the liquor by automobile or other vehicle. Certainly it is a very narrow and technical construction of this word which would limit it to what the officer sees, hears or smells as the automobile rolls by and excludes therefrom when he identifies the car the convincing information that he may previously have received as to the use being made of it.
We do not think such a nice distinction is applicable in the present case. When a man is legally arrested for an offense, whatever is found upon his person or in his control which it is unlawful for him to have and which may be used to prove the offense may be seized and held as evidence in the prosecution. Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383, 392 , 34 S. Ct. 341, L. R. A. 1915B, 834, Ann. Cas. 1915C, 1177; Dillon v. O'Brien and Davis, 16 Cox, C. C. 245; Getchell v. Page, 103 Me. 387, 69 A. 624, 18 L. R. A. (N. S.) 253, 125 Am. St. Rep. 307; Kneeland v. Connally, 70 Ga. 424; 1 Bishop, Criminal Procedure, 211; 1 Wharton, Criminal Procedure (10th Ed.) 97. The argument of defendants is based on the theory that the seizure in this case can only be thus justified. If their theory were sound, their conclusion would be. The validity of the seizure then would turn wholly on the validity of the arrest without a seizure. But the theory is unsound. The right to search and the validity of the seizure are not dependent on the right to arrest. They are dependent on the reasonable cause the seizing officer [267 U.S. 132, 159] has for belief that the contents of the automobile offend against the law. The seizure in such a proceeding comes before the arrest as section 26 indicates. It is true that section 26, title 2, provides for immediate proceedings against the person arrested and that upon conviction the liquor is to be destroyed and the automobile or other vehicle is to be sold, with the saving of the interest of a lienor who does not know of its unlawful use; but it is evident that if the person arrested is ignorant of the contents of the vehicle, or if he escapes, proceedings can be had against the liquor for destruction or other disposition under section 25 of the same title. The character of the offense for which, after the contraband liquor is found and seized, the driver can be prosecuted does not affect the validity of the seizure.
This conclusion is in keeping with the requirements of the Fourth Amendment and the principles of search and seizure of contraband forfeitable property; and it is a wise one because it leaves the rule one which is easily applied and understood and is uniform. Houck v. State, 106 Ohio St. 195, 140 N. E. 112, accords with this conclusion. Ash v. United States (C. C. A.) 299 F. 277, and Milam v. United States (C. C. A.) 296 F. 629, decisions by the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit take the same view. The Ash Case is very similar in its facts to the case at bar, and both were by the same court which decided Snyder v. United States ( C. C. A.) 285 F. 1, cited for the defendants. See, also, Park v. United States (1st C. C. A.) 294 F. 776, 783, and Lambert v. United States (9th C. C. A.) 282 F. 413.
Finally, was there probable cause? In The Apollon, 9 Wheat. 362, the question was whether the seizure of a French vessel at a particular place was upon probable cause that she was there for the purpose of smuggling. In this discussion Mr. Justice Story, who delivered the judgment of the court, said (page 374):
We know in this way that Grand Rapids is about 152 miles from Detroit, and that Detroit and its neighborhood along the Detroit river, which is the international boundary, is one of the most active centers for introducing illegally into this country spirituous liquors for distribution into the interior. It is obvious from the evidence that the prohibition agents were engaged in a regular patrol along the important highways from Detroit to Grand Rapids to stop and seize liquor carried in automobiles. They knew or had convincing evidence to make them believe that the Carroll boys, as they called them, were so-called 'bootleggers' in Grand Rapids; i. e., that they were engaged in plying the unlawful trade of selling such liquor in that city. The officers had soon after noted their going from Grand Rapids half way to Detroit, and attempted to follow them to that city to see where they went, but they escaped observation. Two months later these officers suddenly met the same men on their way westward presumably from Detroit. The partners in the original combination to sell liquor in Grand Rapids were together in the same automobile they had been in the night when they tried to furnish the whisky to the officers, which was thus identified as part of the firm equipment. They were coming from the direction of the great source of supply for their stock to Grand Rapids, where they plied their trade. That the officers, when they saw the defendants, believed that they were carrying liquor, we can have no doubt, and we think it is equally clear that they had reasonable cause for thinking so. Emphasis is put by defendants' counsel on the statement made by one of the officers that they were not looking for defendants at the particular time when they appeared. We do not perceive that it has any weight. As soon as they did appear, [267 U.S. 132, 161] the officers were entitled to use their reasoning faculties upon all the facts of which they had previous knowledge in respect to the defendants.
The necessity for probable cause in justifying seizures on land or sea, in making arrests without warrant for past felonies, and in malicious prosecution and false imprisonment cases has led to frequent definition of the phrase. In Stacey v. Emery, 97 U.S. 642 , 645 (24 L. Ed. 1035), a suit for damages for seizure by a collector, this court defined probable cause as follows:
See Locke v. United States, 7 Cranch, 339; The George, 1 Mason, 24, Fed. Cas. No. 5328; The Thompson, 3 Wall. 155.
It was laid down by Chief Justice Shaw, in Commonwealth v. Carey, 12 Cush. 246, 251, that:
In McCarthy v. De Armit, 99 Pa. 63, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania sums up the definition of probable cause in this way (page 69):
In the case of the Director General v. Kastenbaum, 263 U.S. 25 , 44 S. Ct. 52, which was a suit for false imprisonment, it was said by this court (page 28 [44 S. Ct. 53]):
See, also, Munn v. De Nemours, 3 Wash. C. C. 37, Fed. Cas. No. 9926.
In the light of these authorities, and what is shown by this record, it is clear the officers here had justification for the search and seizure. This is to say that the facts and circumstances within their knowledge and of which they had reasonably trustworthy information were sufficient in themselves to warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that intoxicating liquor was being transported in the automobile which they stopped and searched.
Counsel finally argue that the defendants should be permitted to escape the effect of the conviction because the court refused on motion to deliver them the liquor when, as they say, the evidence adduced on the motion was much less than that shown on the trial, and did not show probable cause. The record does not make it clear what evidence was produced in support of or against the motion. But, apart from this, we think the point is without substance here. If the evidence given on the trial was sufficient, as we think it was, to sustain the introduction of the liquor as evidence, it is immaterial that there was an inadequacy of evidence when application was made for its return. A conviction on adequate and admissible evidence should not be set aside on such a ground. The whole matter was gone into at the trial, so no right of the defendants was infringed.
Counsel for the government contend that Kiro, the defendant who did not own the automobile, could not complain of the violation of the Fourth Amendment in the use of the liquor as evidence against him, whatever the view taken as to Carroll's rights. Our conclusion as to the whole case makes it unnecessary for us to discuss this aspect of it.
The judgment is affirmed. [267 U.S. 132, 163] Mr. Justice McKENNA, before his retirement, concurred in this opinion.
The separate opinion of Mr. Justice McREYNOLDS.
1. The damnable character of the 'bootlegger's' business should not close our eyes to the mischief which will surely follow any attempt to destroy it by unwarranted methods. 'To press forward to a great principle by breaking through every other great principle that stands in the way of its establishment; ... in short, to procure an eminent good by means that are unlawful, is as little consonant to private morality as to public justice.' Sir William Scott, The Le Louis, 2 Dodson, 210, 257.
While quietly driving an ordinary automobile along a much frequented public road, plaintiffs in error were arrested by federal officers without a warrant and upon mere suspicion-ill-founded, as I think. The officers then searched the machine and discovered carefully secreted whisky, which was seized and thereafter used as evidence against plaintiffs in error when on trial for transporting intoxicating liquor contrary to the Volstead Act. 41 Stat. 305, c. 85. They maintain that both arrest and seizure were unlawful and that use of the liquor as evidence violated their constitutional rights.
This is not a proceeding to forfeit seized goods; nor is it an action against the seizing officer for a tort. Cases like the following are not controlling: Crowell v. McFadon. 8 Cranch, 94, 98; United States v. 1960 Bags of Coffee, 8 Cranch, 398, 403, 405; Otis v. Watkins, 9 Cranch, 339; Gelston v. Hoyt, 3 Wheat. 246, 310, 318; Wood v. United States, 16 Pet. 342; Taylor v. United States, 3 How. 197, 205. They turned upon express provisions of applicable acts of Congress; they did not involve the point now presented and afford little, if any, assistance toward its proper solution. The Volstead Act does not, in terms, authorize arrest or seizure upon mere suspicion. [267 U.S. 132, 164] Whether the officers are shielded from prosecution or action by Rev. Stat. 970, is not important. That section does not undertake to deprive the citizen of any constitutional right or to permit the use of evidence unlawfully obtained. It does, however, indicate the clear understanding of Congress that probable cause is not always enough to justify a seizure.
Nor are we now concerned with the question whether by apt words Congress might have authorized the arrest without a warrant. It has not attempted to do this. On the contrary, the whole history of the legislation indicates a fixed purpose not so to do. First and second violations are declared to be misdemeanors-nothing more-and Congress, of course, understood the rule concerning arrests for such offenses. Whether different penalties should have been prescribed or other provisions added is not for us to inquire; nor do difficulties attending enforcement give us power to supplement the legislation.
2. As the Volstead Act contains no definite grant of authority to arrest upon suspicion and without warrant for a first offense, we come to inquire whether such authority can be inferred from its provisions.
Unless the statute which creates a misdemeanor contains some clear provision to the contrary, suspicion that it is being violated will not justify an arrest. Criminal statutes must be strictly construed and applied, in harmony with rules of the common law. United States v. Harris, 177 U.S. 305, 310 , 20 S. Ct. 609. And the well-settled doctrine is that an arrest for a misdemeanor may not be made without a warrant unless the offense is committed in the officer's presence.
Kurtz v. Moffitt, 115 U.S. 487, 498 , 6 S. Ct. 148, 152 (29 L. Ed. 458):
John Bad Elk v. United States, 177 U.S. 529, 534 , 20 S. Ct. 729, 731 ( 44 L. Ed. 874):
Commonwealth v. Wright, 158 Mass. 149, 158, 33 N. E. 82, 85 (19 L. R. A. 206, 35 Am. St. Rep. 475):
Pinkerton v. Verberg, 78 Mich. 573, 584, 44 N. W. 579, 582 (7 L. R. A. 507, 18 Am. St. Rep. 473):
3.The Volstead Act contains no provision which annuls the accepted common-law rule or discloses definite intent [267 U.S. 132, 166] to authorize arrests without warrant for misdemeanors not committed in the officer's presence.
To support the contrary view section 26 is relied upon.
Let it be observed that this section has no special application to automobiles; it includes any vehicle-buggy, wagon, boat, or air craft. Certainly, in a criminal statute, always to be strictly construed, the words 'shall discover ... in the act of transporting in violation of the law' cannot mean shall have reasonable cause to suspect or believe that such transportation is being carried on. To discover and to suspect are wholly different things. Since the beginning apt words have been used when Congress intended that arrests for misdemeanors or seizures might be made upon suspicion. It has studiously refrained from making a felony of the offense here charged; and it did not undertake by any apt words to enlarge the power to arrest. It was not ignorant of the established rule on the subject, and well understood how this could be abrogated, as plainly appears from statutes like the following:
These and similar acts definitely empowered officers to seize upon suspicion and therein radically differ from the Volstead Act, which authorized no such thing.
And it is argued that the words and history of this section indicate the intent of Congress to distinguish between the necessity for warrants in order to search private dwelling and the right to search automobiles without one. Evidently Congress regarded the searching of private dwellings as matter of much graver consequence than some other searches and distinguished between them by declaring the former criminal. But the connection between this distinction and the legality of plaintiffs in error's arrest is not apparent. Nor can I find reason for inquiring concerning the validity of the distinction under the Fourth Amendment. Of course, the distinction is [267 U.S. 132, 168] valid, and so are some seizures. But what of it? The act made nothing legal which theretofore was unlawful, and to conclude that by declaring the unauthorized search of a private dwelling criminal Congress intended to remove ancient restrictions from other searches and from arrests as well, would seem impossible.
While the Fourth Amendment denounces only unreasonable seizures unreasonableness often depends upon the means adopted. Here the seizure followed an unlawful arrest, and therefore became itself unlawful-as plainly unlawful as the seizure within the home so vigorously denounced in Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383, 391 , 392 S., 393, 34 S. Ct. 341, L. R. A. 1915B, 834, Ann. Cas. 1915C, 1177.
In Snyder v. United States, 285 F. 1, 2, the Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, rejected evidence obtained by an unwarranted arrest, and clearly announced some very wholesome doctrine:
The validity of the seizure under consideration depends on the legality of the arrest. This did not follow the seizure, but the reverse is true. Plaintiffs in error were first brought within the officers' power, and, while therein, the seizure took place. If an officer, upon mere suspicion of a misdemeanor, may stop one on the public highway, take articles away from him and thereafter use them as evidence to convict him of crime, what becomes of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments?
In Weeks v. United States, supra, through Mr. Justice Day, this court said:
Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States, 251 U.S. 385, 391 , 40 S. Ct. 182:
Gouled v. United States, 255 U.S. 298 , 41 S. Ct. 261, and Amos v. United States, 255 U.S. 313 , 41 S. Ct. 266, distinctly point out that property procured by unlawful action of federal officers cannot be introduced as evidence.
The arrest of plaintiffs in error was unauthorized, illegal, and violated the guaranty of due process given by the Fifth Amendment. The liquor offered in evidence was obtained by the search which followed this arrest and was therefore obtained in violation of their constitutional [267 U.S. 132, 171] rights. Articles found upon or in the control of one lawfully arrested may be used as evidence for certain purposes, but not at all when secured by the unlawful action of a federal officer.
4. The facts known by the officers who arrested plaintiffs in error were wholly insufficient to create a reasonable belief that they were transporting liquor contrary to law. These facts were detailed by Fred Cronenwett, chief prohibition officer. His entire testimony as given at the trial follows:
The negotiation concerning three cases of whisky on September 29th was the only circumstance which could have subjected plaintiffs in error to any reasonable suspicion. No whisky was delivered, and it is not certain that they ever intended to deliver any. The arrest came 2 1/2 months after the negotiation. Every act in the meantime is consistent with complete innocence. Has it come about that merely because a man once agreed to deliver whisky, but did not, he may be arrested whenever thereafter he ventures to drive an automobile on the road to Detroit!
5. When Congress has intended that seizures or arrests might be made upon suspicion it has been careful to say [267 U.S. 132, 175] so. The history and terms of the Volstead Act are not consistent with the suggestion that it was the purpose of Congress to grant the power here claimed for enforcement officers. The facts known when the arrest occurred were wholly insufficient to engender reasonable belief that plaintiffs in error were committing a misdemeanor, and the legality of the arrest cannot be supported by facts ascertained through the search which followed.
To me it seems clear enough that the judgment should be reversed.
I am authorized to say that Mr. Justice SUTHERLAND concurs in this opinion.
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Citation: 267 U.S. 132
Docket No: No. 15
Decided: March 02, 1925
Court: United States Supreme Court
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