275 U.S. 192 (1927), 185, Marron v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 185
Citation:275 U.S. 192, 48 S.Ct. 74, 72 L.Ed. 231
Party Name:Marron v. United States
Case Date:November 21, 1927
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 192

275 U.S. 192 (1927)

48 S.Ct. 74, 72 L.Ed. 231



United States

No. 185

United States Supreme Court

Nov. 21, 1927

Argued October 12, 1927




1. The requirement of the Fourth Amendment that warrants shall particularly describe the things to be seized makes general searches under them impossible, and prevents the seizure of one thing under a warrant describing another. As to what is to be taken, nothing is left to the discretion of the officer executing the warrant. P. 195.

2. Under the Fourth Amendment and Title 18, U.S. Code, a search warrant describing intoxicating liquors and articles for their manufacture does not authorize the seizure of a ledger and bills of account found in a search of the premises specified in the warrant. P. 196.

3. Officers, in making a lawful search of premises where intoxicating liquors are being unlawfully sold, may lawfully arrest, without a warrant, a person there actually in charge of the premises and actually engaged, in the presence of the officers, in a conspiracy to maintain them, and may contemporaneously, as an incident to the arrest, seize account books and papers not described in the search warrant, but which are used in carrying on the criminal enterprise and are found on the premises and in the immediate possession and control of the person arrested. P. 198.

18 F.2d 218 affirmed.

Certiorari, 274 U.S. 727, to a judgment of the Circuit Court of Appeals affirming the conviction of Marron on a second trial for conspiracy to maintain a nuisance in violation of the Prohibition Act. See also 8 F.2d 251.

Page 193

BUTLER, J., lead opinion

[48 S.Ct. 75] MR. JUSTICE BUTLER delivered the opinion of the Court.

October 17, 1924, the above-named petitioner, one Birdsall, and five others were indicted in the Southern division of the Northern district of California. It was charged that they conspired to commit various offenses against the National Prohibition Act, including the maintenance of a nuisance at 1249 Polk street, San Francisco. Section 37, Criminal Code (U.S.C. Tit. 18, § 88 ). One defendant was never apprehended; one was acquitted; the rest were found guilty. Of these, Marron, Birdsall, and two others obtained review in the Circuit Court of Appeals. The judgment was affirmed as to all except petitioner. He secured reversal and a new trial. 8 F.2d 251. He was again found guilty, and the conviction was affirmed, 18 F.2d 218.

Petitioner insists that a ledger and certain bills were obtained through an illegal search and seizure and put in evidence against him, in violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. The question arose at the first trial. The Circuit Court of Appeals held that the book and papers were lawfully seized, and admissible. When the second conviction was before it, that court held the earlier decision governed the trial, established the law of the case, and foreclosed further consideration.

For some time prior to October 1, 1924, petitioner was the lessee of the entire second floor of 1249 Polk street. On that day, a prohibition agent obtained from a United States commissioner a warrant for the search of that place, particularly describing the things to be seized -- intoxicating liquors and articles for their manufacture. The next day, four prohibition agents went to the place and secured admission by causing the doorbell to be rung. There were six or seven rooms, containing slot machines,

Page 194

an ice box, tables, chairs, and a cash register. The evidence shows that the place was used for retailing and drinking intoxicating liquors. About a dozen men and women were there, and some of them were being furnished intoxicating liquors. The petitioner was not there; Birdsall was in charge. The agents handed him the warrant and put him under arrest. They searched for and found large quantities of liquor, some of which were in a closet. While in the closet, they noticed a ledger showing inventories of liquors, receipts, expenses, including gifts to police officers, and other things relating to the business. And they found, beside the cash register, a number of bills against petitioner for gas, electric light, water, and telephone service furnished on the premises. They seized the ledger and bills. The return made on the search warrant showed only the seizure of the intoxicating liquors. It did not show the discovery or seizure of the ledger or bills. After indictment and before trial, petitioner applied to the court for the return of the ledger and bills and to suppress evidence concerning them. The application was denied. At the trial, there was evidence to show that petitioner made most of the entries in the ledger, and that he was concerned as proprietor or partner in carrying on the business of selling intoxicating liquors.

It has long been settled that the Fifth Amendment protects every person against incrimination by the use of evidence obtained through search or seizure made in violation of his rights under the Fourth Amendment. Agnello v. United States, 269 U.S. 20, 34, and cases cited.

The petitioner insists that, because the ledger and bills were not described in the warrant and as he was not arrested with them on his person, their seizure violated the Fourth Amendment. The United States contends that the seizure may be justified either as an incident to the execution of the search warrant or as an incident to the

Page 195

right of search arising from the arrest of Birdsall while in charge of the saloon. Both questions are presented. Lower courts have expressed divers views in respect of searches in similar cases. The brief for the government states that the facts of this case present one of the most frequent causes of appeals in current cases. And for these reasons, we deal with both contentions.

1. The Fourth Amendment declares that the right to be secure against unreasonable searches shall not be violated, and it further...

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