251 U.S. 385 (1920), 358, Silverthorne Lumber Co., Inc. v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 358
Citation:251 U.S. 385, 40 S.Ct. 182, 64 L.Ed. 319
Party Name:Silverthorne Lumber Co., Inc. v. United States
Case Date:January 26, 1920
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 385

251 U.S. 385 (1920)

40 S.Ct. 182, 64 L.Ed. 319

Silverthorne Lumber Co., Inc.

v.

United States

No. 358

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 26, 1920

Argued December 12, 1919

ERROR TO THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK

Syllabus

The Fourth Amendment protects a corporation and its officers from compulsory production of the corporate books and papers for use in a criminal proceeding against them when the information upon which the subpoenas were framed was derived by the Government through a previous unconstitutional search and seizure, planned and executed by its officials under color of a void writ, provided the defense of the Amendment be seasonably interposed, and not first raised as a collateral issue at the trial of the indictment. P. 391.

The rights of a corporation against unlawful search and seizure are to be protected even if it be not protected by the Fifth Amendment from compulsory production of incriminating documents. P. 362.

Reversed.

The case is stated in the opinion.

Page 390

HOLMES, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a writ of error brought to reverse a judgment of the District Court fining the Silverthorne Lumber Company two hundred and fifty dollars for contempt of court and ordering Frederick W. Silverthorne to be imprisoned until he should purge himself of a similar contempt. The contempt in question was a refusal to obey subpoenas and an order of Court to produce books and documents of the company before the grand jury to be used in regard to alleged violation of the statutes of the United States by the said Silverthorne and his father. One ground of the refusal was that the order of the Court infringed the rights of the parties under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

The facts are simple. An indictment upon a single specific charge having been brought against the two Silverthornes mentioned, they both were arrested at their homes early in the morning of February 25, and were detained in custody a number of hours. While they were thus detained, representatives of the Department of Justice and the United States marshal, without a shadow of authority, went to the office of their company and made a clean sweep of all the books, papers and documents found there. All the employes were taken or directed to go to the office of the District Attorney of the United States, to which also the books, &c., were taken at once. An application, was made as soon as...

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