350 U.S. 214 (1956), 30, Rea v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 30
Citation:350 U.S. 214, 76 S.Ct. 292, 100 L.Ed. 233
Party Name:Rea v. United States
Case Date:January 16, 1956
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 214

350 U.S. 214 (1956)

76 S.Ct. 292, 100 L.Ed. 233



United States

No. 30

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 16, 1956

Argued November 10, 1955




On the basis of evidence seized under an invalid federal search warrant, petitioner was indicted in a federal court for unlawful acquisition of marihuana. On his motion under Rule 41(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, this evidence was suppressed. Thereafter, he was charged in a state court with possession of marihuana in violation of state law. Alleging that the evidence suppressed in the federal court was the basis of the state charge, petitioner moved in a federal court for an order enjoining the federal agent who had seized the evidence from transferring it to state authorities or testifying with respect thereto in the state courts.

Held: the motion should have been granted. Pp. 214-218.

218 F.2d 237 reversed.

DOUGLAS, J., lead opinion

[76 S.Ct. 293] MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner was indicted for the unlawful acquisition of marihuana in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 2593(a). The indictment, found in September, 1953, was based on evidence obtained by a search warrant issued by a United States Commissioner, as authorized by Rule 41(a) of the Rules of Criminal Procedure in August, 1953. Petitioner moved under Rule 41(e) to suppress the evidence on the ground that the search warrant was improperly issued under Rule 41(c) in that it was insufficient on its face,

Page 215

no probable cause existed, and the affidavit was based on unsworn statements. * The District Court granted the motion to suppress, and, on the Government's later motion, dismissed the indictment. No motion for return of the evidence was made. The evidence seized was indeed contraband. Since the crime charged was a violation of a provision of the Internal Revenue Code, 28 U.S.C. § 2463, was applicable. That section provides against the return of the property in the following words:

All property taken or detained under any revenue law of the United States shall not be repleviable, but shall be deemed to be in the custody of the law and subject only to the orders and decrees of the courts of the United States having jurisdiction thereof.

And see 26 U.S.C. § 2598.

After the District Court suppressed the evidence, a federal narcotics agent swore to a complaint before a New Mexico judge and caused a warrant for petitioner's arrest to issue. Petitioner has now been charged with being in possession of marihuana in violation of New Mexico law, and awaits trial in the state court. The case against petitioner in the state court will be made by testimony of the federal agent based on the illegal search and on the evidence seized under the illegal federal warrant.

Page 216

That, at least, is the basis of the motion in the District Court to enjoin the federal narcotics agent from testifying in the state case with respect to the narcotics obtained in the illegal search and, if the evidence seized is out of the custody of the United States, to direct the agent to reacquire the evidence and destroy it or transfer it to other agents. The District Court denied the motion and the Court of Appeals affirmed. 218 F.2d 237. The case is here on a petition for certiorari which we granted because of the importance in federal law enforcement of the question presented. 348 U.S. 958.

The briefs and oral argument have been largely devoted to constitutional questions. It is said, for...

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