267 U.S. 498 (1925), 235, Steele v. United States No. 1

Docket Nº:No. 235
Citation:267 U.S. 498, 45 S.Ct. 414, 69 L.Ed. 757
Party Name:Steele v. United States No. 1
Case Date:April 13, 1925
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 498

267 U.S. 498 (1925)

45 S.Ct. 414, 69 L.Ed. 757



United States No. 1

No. 235

United States Supreme Court

April 13, 1925

Argued March 11, 1925




1. Description, in a search warrant, of a building as a garage used for business purposes, giving its street and one of its two house numbers, held sufficiently definite, under the circumstances, for search of the whole building, which had three street entrances, and means of access between its parts on the ground and upper floors, and was used in conducting an automobile garage and storage business. P. 502.

2. A search warrant sufficiently describes the place to be searched if it enables the officer, with reasonable effort, to identify it. P. 503.

3. A warrant authorizing search of a building used as a garage, and any building or rooms connected or used in connection with the garage, held to justify search of the upper rooms connected with the garage by elevator. P. 503.

4. Search of rooms in a building used by a business held not unlawful under Prohibition Act § 25 because one of the rooms, not searched and in which no liquor was found, was slept and cooked in by an employee of the business. P. 503.

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5. Description of articles to be searched for a "cases of whiskey" held sufficient. P. 504.

6. Where an experienced prohibition agent saw cases labeled "whiskey," which looked to him like whiskey cases, being unloaded at a building which, as he ascertained, had no permit to store whiskey, there was probable cause for warrant and seizure. P. 504.


Appeal from a judgment of the district court refusing to vacate a search warrant, under which the appellant's premises were searched and quantities of whiskey, gin and alcohol were found and seized. See also the next case, post, p. 505.

TAFT, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE TAFT delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is an appeal, under § 238 of the Judicial Code, direct from the district court, being a case involving the application of the federal Constitution. The judgment complained of denied a petition of Steele for an order vacating a search warrant by authority of which Steele's premises were searched and a large amount of whisky and other intoxicating liquor was found and seized. He contends that the search warrant violated the Fourth Amendment because not issued upon probable cause and not particularly describing the place to be searched or the property to be seized, and because the search conducted under the warrant was unreasonable. The affidavit for search warrant was as follows:

Southern District of New York, ss.:

Isidor Einstein, being duly sworn, deposes and says: I am a general prohibition agent assigned to duty in

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the State of New York. On December 6, 1922, at about 10 o'clock a.m., accompanied by Agent Moe W. Smith, I was standing in front of the garage located in the building at 611 West Forty-Sixth street, Borough of Manhattan, City and Southern District of New York. This building is used for business purposes only. I saw a small truck driven into the entrance of the garage, and I saw the driver unload from the end of the truck a number of cases of stenciled whisky. They were the size and appearance of whisky cases, and I believe that they contained whisky. A search of the records of the federal prohibition director's office fails to disclose any permit for the manufacture, sale, or possession of intoxicating liquors at the premises above referred to.

The said premises are within the Southern District of New York, and, upon information and belief, have thereon a quantity of intoxicating liquor containing more than one-half of 1 percent of alcohol by volume, and fit for use for beverage purposes, which is used, has been used, and is intended for use, in violation of the statute of the United States, to-wit, the National Prohibition Act.

This affidavit is made to procure a search warrant, to search said building at the above address, any building or rooms connected or used in connection with said garage, the basement or subcellar beneath the same, and to seize all intoxicating liquors found therein.

Isidor Einstein.

Sworn to before me this 6th day of December, 1922. Saml. M. Hitchcock, U.S. Commissioner, Southern District of New York.

The search warrant issued by the commissioner followed the affidavit in the description of the place and property to be searched and seized, and was directed to Einstein as general prohibition agent.

Section 25, Title II, of the National Prohibition Act, c. 85, 41 Stat. 305, 315, provides for the issue of a search

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warrant to seize liquor and its containers intended for use in violating the Act, and provides that the search warrant shall be issued as provided in Title XI of the Espionage Act of June 15, 1917, c. 30, 40 Stat. 217, 228.

Under that title, in conformity with the Fourth Amendment, the warrant can be issued only upon probable cause, supported by affidavit particularly describing the property and place to be searched. The judge or commissioner...

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