An experienced federal narcotics agent was told by an informer, whose information the agent had always found to be accurate and reliable, that petitioner, whom the agent did not know but who was described by the informer, was peddling narcotics, had gone to Chicago to obtain a supply, and would return on a certain train on a certain day or the day after. The agent met the train, easily recognized petitioner from the informer's description, and, without a warrant, arrested him, searched him and seized narcotics and a hypodermic syringe found in his possession. These were later admitted in evidence over petitioner's objection at the trial at which he was convicted of violating a federal narcotics law. Held: The arrest, search and seizure were lawful and the articles seized were properly admitted in evidence at petitioner's trial. Pp. 308-314.
Osmond K. Fraenkel argued the cause and filed a brief for petitioner. [358 U.S. 307, 308]
Leonard B. Sand argued the cause for the United States. On the brief were Solicitor General Rankin, Assistant Attorney General Anderson, Beatrice Rosenberg and Jerome M. Feit.
MR. JUSTICE WHITTAKER delivered the opinion of the Court.
Petitioner was convicted of knowingly concealing and transporting narcotic drugs in Denver, Colorado, in violation of 35 Stat. 614, as amended, 21 U.S.C. 174. His conviction was based in part on the use in evidence against him of two "envelopes containing [865 grains of] heroin" and a hypodermic syringe that had been taken from his person, following his arrest, by the arresting officer. Before the trial, he moved to suppress that evidence as having been secured through an unlawful search and seizure. After hearing, the District Court found that the arresting officer had probable cause to arrest petitioner without a warrant and that the subsequent search and seizure were therefore incident to a lawful arrest, and overruled the motion to suppress. 146 F. Supp. 689. At the subsequent trial, that evidence was offered and, over petitioner's renewed objection, was received in evidence, and the trial resulted, as we have said, in petitioner's conviction. The Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction, 248 F.2d 295, and certiorari was sought on the sole ground that the search and seizure violated the Fourth Amendment 1 and therefore the use of the heroin in evidence vitiated the conviction. We granted the writ to determine that question. 357 U.S. 935 . [358 U.S. 307, 309]
The evidence offered at the hearing on the motion to suppress was not substantially disputed. It established that one Marsh, a federal narcotic agent with 29 years' experience, was stationed at Denver; that one Hereford had been engaged as a "special employee" of the Bureau of Narcotics at Denver for about six months, and from time to time gave information to Marsh regarding violations of the narcotic laws, for which Hereford was paid small sums of money, and that Marsh had always found the information given by Hereford to be accurate and reliable. On September 3, 1956, Hereford told Marsh that James Draper (petitioner) recently had taken up abode at a stated address in Denver and "was peddling narcotics to several addicts" in that city. Four days later, on September 7, Hereford told Marsh "that Draper had gone to Chicago the day before [September 6] by train [and] that he was going to bring back three ounces of heroin [and] that he would return to Denver either on the morning of the 8th of September or the morning of the 9th of September also by train." Hereford also gave Marsh a detailed physical description of Draper and of the clothing he was wearing, 2 and said that he would be carrying "a tan zipper bag," and that he habitually "walked real fast."
On the morning of September 8, Marsh and a Denver police officer went to the Denver Union Station and kept watch over all incoming trains from Chicago, but they did not see anyone fitting the description that Hereford had given. Repeating the process on the morning of September 9, they saw a person, having the exact physical attributes and wearing the precise clothing described by Hereford, alight from an incoming Chicago train and [358 U.S. 307, 310] start walking "fast" toward the exit. He was carrying a tan zipper bag in his right hand and the left was thrust in his raincoat pocket. Marsh, accompanied by the police officer, overtook, stopped and arrested him. They then searched him and found the two "envelopes containing heroin" clutched in his left hand in his raincoat pocket, and found the syringe in the tan zipper bag. Marsh then took him (petitioner) into custody. Hereford died four days after the arrest and therefore did not testify at the hearing on the motion.
26 U.S.C. (Supp. V) 7607, added by 104 (a) of the Narcotic Control Act of 1956, 70 Stat. 570, provides, in pertinent part:
Petitioner does not dispute this analysis of the question for decision. Rather, he contends (1) that the information given by Hereford to Marsh was "hearsay" and, because hearsay is not legally competent evidence in a criminal trial, could not legally have been considered, but should have been put out of mind, by Marsh in assessing whether he had "probable cause" and "reasonable grounds" to arrest petitioner without a warrant, and (2) that, even if hearsay could lawfully have been considered, Marsh's information should be held insufficient to show "probable cause" and "reasonable grounds" to believe that petitioner had violated or was violating the narcotic laws and to justify his arrest without a warrant.
Considering the first contention, we find petitioner entirely in error. Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160, 172 -173, has settled the question the other way. There, in a similar situation, the convict contended "that the factors relating to inadmissibility of the evidence [for] purposes of proving guilt at the trial, deprive[d] the evidence as a whole of sufficiency to show probable cause for the search . . . ." Id., at 172. (Emphasis added.) But this Court, rejecting that contention, said: "[T]he so-called distinction places a wholly unwarranted emphasis upon the criterion of admissibility in evidence, to prove the accused's guilt, of the facts relied upon to show probable cause. That emphasis, we think, goes much too far in confusing and disregarding the difference between what is required to prove guilt in a criminal case and what is [358 U.S. 307, 312] required to show probable cause for arrest or search. It approaches requiring (if it does not in practical effect require) proof sufficient to establish guilt in order to substantiate the existence of probable cause. There is a large difference between the two things to be proved [guilt and probable cause], as well as between the tribunals which determine them, and therefore a like difference in the quanta and modes of proof required to establish them." 4 338 U.S., at 172 -173.
Nor can we agree with petitioner's second contention that Marsh's information was insufficient to show probable cause and reasonable grounds to believe that petitioner had violated or was violating the narcotic laws and to justify his arrest without a warrant. The information given to narcotic agent Marsh by "special employee" [358 U.S. 307, 313] Hereford may have been hearsay to Marsh, but coming from one employed for that purpose and whose information had always been found accurate and reliable, it is clear that Marsh would have been derelict in his duties had he not pursued it. And when, in pursuing that information, he saw a man, having the exact physical attributes and wearing the precise clothing and carrying the tan zipper bag that Hereford had described, alight from one of the very trains from the very place stated by Hereford and start to walk at a "fast" pace toward the station exit, Marsh had personally verified every facet of the information given him by Hereford except whether petitioner had accomplished his mission and had the three ounces of heroin on his person or in his bag. And surely, with every other bit of Hereford's information being thus personally verified, Marsh had "reasonable grounds" to believe that the remaining unverified bit of Hereford's information - that Draper would have the heroin with him - was likewise true.
[ Footnote 2 ] Hereford told Marsh that Draper was a Negro of light brown complexion, 27 years of age, 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighed about 160 pounds, and that he was wearing a light colored raincoat, brown slacks and black shoes.
[ Footnote 3 ] The terms "probable cause" as used in the Fourth Amendment and "reasonable grounds" as used in 104 (a) of the Narcotic Control Act, 70 Stat. 570, are substantial equivalents of the same meaning. United States v. Walker, 246 F.2d 519, 526 (C. A. 7th Cir.); cf. United States v. Bianco, 189 F.2d 716, 720 (C. A. 3d Cir.).
[ Footnote 4 ] In United States v. Heitner, 149 F.2d 105, 106 (C. A. 2d Cir.), Judge Learned Hand said "It is well settled that an arrest may be made upon hearsay evidence; and indeed, the `reasonable cause' necessary to support an arrest cannot demand the same strictness of proof as the accused's guilt upon a trial, unless the powers of peace officers are to be so cut down that they cannot possibly perform their duties."
Grau v. United States, 287 U.S. 124, 128 , contains a dictum that "A search warrant may issue only upon evidence which would be competent in the trial of the offense before a jury (Giles v. United States, 284 Fed. 208; Wagner v. United States, 8 F. (2d) 581) . . . ." But the principles underlying that proposition were thoroughly discredited and rejected in Brinegar v. United States, supra, 338 U.S., at 172 -174, and notes 12 and 13. There are several cases in the federal courts that followed the now discredited dictum in the Grau case, Simmons v. United States, 18 F.2d 85, 88; Worthington v. United States, 166 F.2d 557, 564-565; cf. Reeve v. Howe, 33 F. Supp. 619, 622; United States v. Novero, 58 F. Supp. 275, 279, but the great weight of authority is the other way. See, e. g., Wrightson v. United States, 236 F.2d 672 (C. A. D.C. Cir.); United States v. Heitner, supra (C. A. 2d Cir.); United States v. Bianco, 189 F.2d 716 (C. A. 3d Cir.); Wisniewski v. United States, 47 F.2d 825 (C. A. 6th Cir.); United States v. Walker, 246 F.2d 519 (C. A. 7th Cir.); Mueller v. Powell, 203 F.2d 797 (C. A. 8th Cir.). And see Note, 46 Harv. L. Rev. 1307, 1310-1311, criticizing the Grau dictum.
[ Footnote 5 ] To the same effect are: Husty v. United States, 282 U.S. 694, 700 -701; Dumbra v. United States, 268 U.S. 435, 441 ; Steele v. United States No. 1, 267 U.S. 498, 504 -505; Stacey v. Emery, 97 U.S. 642, 645 ; Brinegar v. United States, supra, at 175, 176.
[ Footnote 6 ] Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383, 392 ; Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132, 158 ; Agnello v. United States, 269 U.S. 20, 30 ; Giordenello v. United States, 357 U.S. 480, 483 .
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, dissenting.
Decisions under the Fourth Amendment, 1 taken in the long view, have not given the protection to the citizen which the letter and spirit of the Amendment would seem to require. One reason, I think, is that wherever a culprit is caught red-handed, as in leading Fourth Amendment cases, it is difficult to adopt and enforce a rule that would turn him loose. A rule protective of law-abiding citizens is not apt to flourish where its advocates are usually criminals. Yet the rule we fashion is for the innocent and guilty alike. If the word of the informer [358 U.S. 307, 315] on which the present arrest was made is sufficient to make the arrest legal, his word would also protect the police who, acting on it, hauled the innocent citizen off to jail.
Of course, the education we receive from mystery stories and television shows teaches that what happened in this case is efficient police work. The police are tipped off that a man carrying narcotics will step off the morning train. A man meeting the precise description does alight from the train. No warrant for his arrest has been - or, as I see it, could then be - obtained. Yet he is arrested; and narcotics are found in his pocket and a syringe in the bag he carried. This is the familiar pattern of crime detection which has been dinned into public consciousness as the correct and efficient one. It is, however, a distorted reflection of the constitutional system under which we are supposed to live.
With all due deference, the arrest made here on the mere word of an informer violated the spirit of the Fourth Amendment and the requirement of the law, 26 U.S.C. (Supp. V) 7607, governing arrests in narcotics cases. If an arrest is made without a warrant, the offense must be committed in the presence of the officer or the officer must have "reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing" a violation of the narcotics law. The arresting officers did not have a bit of evidence, known to them and as to which they could take an oath had they gone to a magistrate for a warrant, that petitioner had committed any crime. The arresting officers did not know the grounds on which the informer based his conclusion; nor did they seek to find out what they were. They acted solely on the informer's word. In my view that was not enough.
The rule which permits arrest for felonies, as distinguished from misdemeanors, if there are reasonable grounds for believing a crime has been or is being committed (Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132, 157 ), [358 U.S. 307, 316] grew out of the need to protect the public safety by making prompt arrests. Id. Yet, apart from those cases where the crime is committed in the presence of the officer, arrests without warrants, like searches without warrants, are the exception, not the rule in our society. Lord Chief Justice Pratt in Wilkes v. Wood, 19 How. St. Tr. 1153, condemned not only the odious general warrant, 2 in which the name of the citizen to be arrested was left blank, but the whole scheme of seizures and searches 3 under "a discretionary power" of law officers to act "wherever their suspicions may chance to fall" - a practice which he denounced as "totally subversive of the liberty of the subject." Id., at 1167. See III May, Constitutional History of England, c. XI. Wilkes had written in 1762, "To take any man into custody, and deprive him of his liberty, without having some seeming foundation at least, on which to justify such a step, is inconsistent with wisdom and sound policy." The Life and Political Writings of John Wilkes, p. 372.
George III in 1777 pressed for a bill which would allow arrests on suspicion of treason committed in America. The words were "suspected of" treason and it was to these words that Wilkes addressed himself in Parliament. "There is not a syllable in the Bill of the degree of probability attending the suspicion. . . . Is it possible, Sir, to give more despotic powers to a bashaw of the Turkish [358 U.S. 307, 317] empire? What security is left for the devoted objects of this Bill against the malice of a prejudiced individual, a wicked magistrate . . . ?" The Speeches of Mr. Wilkes, p. 102.
These words and the complaints against which they were directed were will known on this side of the water. Hamilton wrote about "the practice of arbitrary imprisonments" which he denounced as "the favorite and most formidable instruments of tyranny." The Federalist No. 84. The writs of assistance, against which James Otis proclaimed, 4 were vicious in the same way as the general warrants, since they required no showing of "probable cause" before a magistrate, and since they allowed the police to search on suspicion and without "reasonable grounds" for believing that a crime had been or was being committed. Otis' protest was eloquent; but he lost the case. His speech, however, rallied public opinion. "Then and there," wrote John Adams, "the child Independence was born." 10 Life and Works of John Adams (1856), p. 248.
The attitude of Americans to arrests and searches on suspicion was also greatly influenced by the lettres de cachet extensively used in France. 5 This was an order emanating from the King and countersigned by a minister directing the seizure of a person for purposes of immediate imprisonment or exile. The ministers issued the lettres in an arbitrary manner, often at the request of the head of a noble family to punish a deviant son or relative. See Mirabeau, A Victim of the Lettres de Cachet, 3 Am. Hist. Rev. 19. One who was so arrested [358 U.S. 307, 318] might remain incarcerated indefinitely, as no legal process was available by which he could seek release. "Since the action of the government was secret, his friends might not know whither he had vanished, and he might even be ignorant of the cause of his arrest." 8 The Camb. Mod. Hist. 50. In the Eighteenth Century the practice arose of issuing the lettres in blank, the name to be filled in by the local mandatory. Thus the King could be told in 1770 "that no citizen of your realm is guaranteed against having his liberty sacrificed to revenge. For no one is great enough to be beyond the hate of some minister, nor small enough to be beyond the hate of some clerk." III Encyc. Soc. Sci. 138. As Blackstone wrote, ". . . if once it were left in the power of any, the highest, magistrate to imprison arbitrarily whomever he or his officers thought proper, (as in France it is daily practiced by the crown,) there would soon be an end of all other rights and immunities." I Commentaries (4th ed. Cooley) *135.
The Virginia Declaration of Rights, adopted June 12, 1776, included the forerunner of the Fourth Amendment: 6
When the Constitution was up for adoption, objections were made that it contained no Bill of Rights. And Patrick Henry was one who complained in particular that it contained no provision against arbitrary searches and seizures:
It was against this long background that Professors Hogan and Snee of Georgetown University recently wrote:
The requirement that the arresting officer know some facts suggestive of guilt has been variously stated:
The Court is quite correct in saying that proof of "reasonable grounds" for believing a crime was being committed need not be proof admissible at the trial. It could be inferences from suspicious acts, e. g., consort with known peddlers, the surreptitious passing of a package, an intercepted message suggesting criminal activities, or any number of such events coming to the knowledge of the officer. See People v. Rios, 46 Cal. 2d 297, 294 P.2d 39. But, if he takes the law into his own hands and does not seek the protection of a warrant, he must act on some evidence known to him. 8 The law goes for to protect [358 U.S. 307, 324] the citizen. Even suspicious acts observed by the officers may be as consistent with innocence as with guilt. That is not enough, for even the guilty may not be implicated on suspicion alone. Baumboy v. United States, 24 F.2d 512. The reason is, as I have said, that the standard set by the Constitution and by the statute is one that will protect both the officer and the citizen. For if the officer acts with "probable cause" or on "reasonable grounds," he is protected even though the citizen is innocent. 9 This important requirement should be strictly enforced, lest the whole process of arrest revert once more to whispered accusations by people. When we lower the guards as we do today, we risk making the role of the informer - odious in our history - once more supreme. I think the correct rule was stated in Poldo v. United States, 55 F.2d 866, 869. "Mere suspicion is not enough; there must be circumstances represented to the officers through the testimony of their senses sufficient to justify them in a good-faith belief that the defendant had violated the law."
Here the officers had no evidence - apart from the mere word of an informer - that petitioner was committing a crime. The fact that petitioner walked fast and carried a tan zipper bag was not evidence of any crime. The officers knew nothing except what they had been told by the informer. If they went to a magistrate to get a warrant of arrest and relied solely on the report of the informer, it is not conceivable to me that one would be granted. See Giordenello v. United States, 357 U.S. 480, 486 . For they could not present to the magistrate any of the facts which the informer may have had. They could swear only to the fact that the informer had made the accusation. They could swear to no evidence that lay in their own knowledge. They could [358 U.S. 307, 325] present, on information and belief, no facts which the informer disclosed. No magistrate could issue a warrant on the mere word of an officer, without more. 10 See Giordenello v. United States, supra. We are not justified in lowering the standard when an arrest is made without a warrant and allowing the officers more leeway than we grant the magistrate.
With all deference I think we break with tradition when we sustain this arrest. We said in United States v. Di Re, supra, at 595, ". . . a search is not to be made legal by what it turns up. In law it is good or bad when it starts and does not change character from its success." In this case it was only after the arrest and search were made that there was a shred of evidence known to the officers that a crime was in the process of being committed. 11
[ Footnote 1 ] The Fourth Amendment provides:
[ Footnote 2 ] The general warrant was declared illegal by the House of Commons in 1766. See 16 Hansard, Parl. Hist. Eng., 207.
[ Footnote 3 ] The nameless general warrant was not the only vehicle for intruding on the privacy of the subjects without a valid basis for believing them guilty of offenses. In declaring illegal a warrant to search a plaintiff's house for evidence of libel, issued by the Secretary of State without any proof that the named accused was the author of the alleged libels, Lord Camden said, "we can safely say there is no law in this country to justify the defendants in what they have done; if there was, it would destroy all the comforts of society." Entick v. Carrington, 2 Wils. K. B. 275, 291.
[ Footnote 4 ] See Quincy's Mass. Rep., 1761-1772, Appendix I, p. 469.
[ Footnote 5 ] "Experience . . . has taught us that the power [to make arrests, searches and seizures] is one open to abuse. The most notable historical instance of it is that of lettres de cachet. Our Constitution was framed during the seethings of the French Revolution. The thought was to make lettres de cachet impossible with us." United States v. Innelli, 286 F. 731.
[ Footnote 6 ] See also Maryland Declaration of Rights (1776), Art. XXIII; Massachusetts Constitution (1780), Part First, Art. XIV; New Hampshire Constitution (1784), Part I, Art. XIX; North Carolina Declaration of Rights (1776), Art. XI; Pennsylvania Constitution (1776), Art. X.
[ Footnote 7 ] Hale, who traced the evolution of arrests without warrants in The History of the Pleas of the Crown (1st Am. ed. 1847), states that while officers need at times to act on information from others, they must make that information, so far as they can, their own. He puts a case where A, suspecting B "on reasonable grounds" of being a felon, [358 U.S. 307, 322] asks an officer to arrest B. The duty of the officer was stated as follows:
[ Footnote 8 ] United States v. Heitner, 149 F.2d 105, 106, that says an arrest may be made "upon hearsay evidence" was a case where the arrest was made after the defendant on seeing the officers tried to get away. Our cases cited by that court in support of the use of hearsay were Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132 ; Dumbra v. United States, 268 U.S. 435 ; and Husty v. United States, 282 U.S. 694 . But each of them was a case where the information on which the arrest was made, though perhaps not competent at the trial, was known to the arresting officer.
[ Footnote 9 ] Maghan v. Jerome, 67 App. D.C. 9, 88 F.2d 1001; Pritchett v. Sullivan, 182 F. 480. See Ravenscroft v. Casey, 139 F.2d 776.
[ Footnote 10 ] See State v. Gleason, 32 Kan. 245, 4 P. 363; State v. Smith, 262 S. W. 65 (Mo. App.), arising under state constitutions having provisions comparable to our Fourth Amendment.
[ Footnote 11 ] The Supreme Court of South Carolina has said: