271 F.2d 829 (D.C. Cir. 1959), 14904, White v. United States

Docket Nº:14904.
Citation:271 F.2d 829
Party Name:Benjamin E. WHITE alias William W. Blakey, Appellant v. UNITED STATES of America, Appellee.
Case Date:October 22, 1959
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

Page 829

271 F.2d 829 (D.C. Cir. 1959)

Benjamin E. WHITE alias William W. Blakey, Appellant

v.

UNITED STATES of America, Appellee.

No. 14904.

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit.

October 22, 1959

Argued June 3, 1959.

Mr. William R. Lichtenberg, Washington, D.C; (appointed by this court) for appellant.

Mr. Edward C. O'Connell, Asst. U.S. Atty., with whom Messrs. Oliver Gasch, U.S. Atty., and Carl W. Belcher, Asst. U.S. Atty., were on the brief, for appellee.

Before WILBUR K. MILLER, FAHY and WASHINGTON, Circuit Judges.

FAHY, Circuit Judge.

Appellant was convicted on eleven counts, including forgery, housebreaking

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and grand larceny, in violation of 22 D.C.Code§§ 1 401, 1801, 2202 and 2202 (1951), and of interstate transportation of falsely made securities, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2314 (1958). 1

Documents taken from appellant's person when he was arrested by a city policeman in New York City-- evidence material to the prosecution's proof--were introduced in evidence over his objection and after his motion to suppress, filed under Rule 41(e), Fed.R.Crim .P., 18 U.S.C., had been overruled. His position is that this evidence was secured from him by an unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the standards of the Fourth Amendment, 2 thus under settled law rendering the evidence inadmissible on his trial in a federal court, United States v. Jeffers, 342 U.S. 48, 72 S.Ct. 93, 96 L.Ed. 59; Weeks v. United States, 232 U.s,, 383, 34 S.Ct. 341, 58 L.Ed. 652, even though the search and seizure were conducted by a municipal officer, without the involvement of any Federal officer. Hanna v. United States, 104 U .S.App.D.C. 205, 260 F.2d 723. The United States Counters that the search and seizure were incidental to appellant's lawful arrest, thus enabling the evidence to be used under an exception to the general rule requiring a valid search warrant to support the reasonableness of a search or seizure. Draper v. United States, 358 U.S. 307, 79 S.Ct. 329, 3 L.Ed.2d 327; United States v. Rabinowitz, 339 U.S. 56, 70 S.Ct. 430, 94 L.Ed; 653; Harris v; United States, 331 U.S. 145, 67 S.Ct. 1098, 91 L.Ed. 1399. Reasonableness, whether or not there is a search warrant, is the ultimate constitutional test of the lawfulness of a search or seizure. See, e. g., United States v. Lefkowitz, 285 U.S. 452, 464, 52 S.Ct. 420, 423, 76 L.Ed. 877, where, in an opinion by Mr. Justice Butler, the Court said:

'The Fourth Amendment forbids every search that is unreasonable and is construed liberally to safeguard the right of privacy * * *. Its protection extends to offenders as well as to the law abiding.'

In passing upon the reasonableness of the search and seizure we accept the factual version given by the police officer. He was seated in a car between 145th and 146th Streets on the east side of Bradhurst Avenue, New York City, about 2 o'clock in the morning of August 11, 1958. Appellant was walking along with another man and was under observation about 30 seconds, or 100 feet. He kept looking back as if expecting someone to follow him. The officer stopped the two men and asked for identification. The papers produced by appellant, considered with his statements, created a discrepancy. The man with appellant, however, demonstrated his own identification, whereupon the officer 'let him go.'

When he accosted appellant the officer told him to put his hands together 'this way,' described during the trial as requiring him to clasp his hands in a certain position. The officer 'patted him down to make sure he had no weapons,' and then felt in his pockets, up to which time he had no intention of arresting him. The officer asked appellant where he worked, receiving the reply he had not worked for over a year; he said he maintained himself by gambling. Thereupon the officer informed appellant he was arresting him for vagrancy. He had stopped appellant, told him to put his hands together, and started ordering him around, because 'that is the...

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