287 U.S. 206 (1932), 55, Sgro v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 55
Citation:287 U.S. 206, 53 S.Ct. 138, 77 L.Ed. 260
Party Name:Sgro v. United States
Case Date:December 05, 1932
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 206

287 U.S. 206 (1932)

53 S.Ct. 138, 77 L.Ed. 260



United States

No. 55

United States Supreme Court

Dec. 5, 1932

Argued October 10, 1932




1. The provisions of the Fourth Amendment relative to search warrants, and of legislation regulating that process, should be liberally construed in favor of the individual. P. 210.

2. Under § 25 of the National Prohibition Act and the provisions of the Act of June 15, 1917 (Espionage Act), to which that section refers, a warrant to search for intoxicating liquor becomes void at the expiration of ten days from the date of its issuance, and cannot then be revived by the magistrate merely by redating and reissuing it solely on the basis of the affidavit upon which it was issued originally. Pp. 210 et seq.

3. The issue of a new warrant is a new proceeding, and must be supported by proof that probable cause then exists. P. 211.

54 F.2d 1083 reversed.

Certiorari, 286 U.S. 539, to review the affirmance of a judgment on conviction under the Prohibition Act. Evidence seized under a search warrant was used against the defendant at the trial after a petition for its return to him, on the ground that the search was illegal, had been made and overruled.

Page 208

HUGHES, J., lead opinion

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

The petitioner was charged with violating the National Prohibition Act by possessing and selling intoxicating liquor at the Bouckville Hotel. The District Court denied his request to restrain the use of evidence procured by federal officers while searching the hotel under a warrant alleged to be invalid. This evidence was introduced at the trial over his objection. He was found guilty, and the judgment against him was affirmed by the Circuit Court of Appeals. 54 F.2d 1083. This Court granted certiorari. The only question presented is as to the validity of the warrant.

Subject to petitioner's contention, the parties entered into a stipulation of facts which, so far as pertinent to the question, is as follows:

That, on or about the sixth day of July, 1926, William Arthur, United States Commissioner at Rome, New York, issued a search warrant based upon an affidavit introduced in evidence in this case, of C. G. Dodd, in which Dodd swore that he made a purchase of beer of the defendant; that, on the twenty-seventh day of July, 1926, the said search warrant not having been executed in the interim and ten days from the date of the search warrant having expired, the search warrant was taken by the prohibition agents to whom it was directed back to the commissioner, and by him or by someone in his office under his direction and control, the date of the search warrant was changed from July sixth to July twenty-seventh, 1926, and thus reissued; that, acting under the color of such search warrant,

the search in question was made.

Page 209

The record also contains a certificate by the United States Commissioner, under date of December 20, 1926, as follows:

I hereby certify that the complaint or affidavit, upon which the search warrant was issued in the above entitled matter was made before me on the 6th day of July, 1926. That the search warrant was issued on or about said 6th day of July, 1926, but was not executed within the ten days prescribed by statute, and was returned to me by Albert Vandiver, Prohibition Agent in Charge of the Syracuse office, requesting that same be reissued or redated, and my docket book shows that same was reissued on the 27th day of July, 1926, and mailed back to said Vandiver.

The National Prohibition Act, § 25, 41 Stat. 305, 315, U.S.C. Tit. 27, § 39, authorizes the issue of warrants to search for intoxicating liquors as provided [53 S.Ct. 140] in Title XI of the Act of June 15, 1917, 40 Stat. 228. * Section 11 of the last-mentioned Act has the following requirement:

Page 210

Sec. 11. A search warrant must be executed and returned to the judge or commissioner who issued it within ten days after its date; after the expiration of this time the warrant, unless executed, is void.

As the original warrant was issued on July 6th and was not executed within ten days, it became void under this explicit provision. But the Government...

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