387 U.S. 294 (1967), 480, Warden v. Hayden

Docket NºNo. 480
Citation387 U.S. 294, 87 S.Ct. 1642, 18 L.Ed.2d 782
Party NameWarden v. Hayden
Case DateMay 29, 1967
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

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387 U.S. 294 (1967)

87 S.Ct. 1642, 18 L.Ed.2d 782




No. 480

United States Supreme Court

May 29, 1967

Argued April 12, 1967




The police were informed that an armed robbery had occurred and that the suspect, respondent, had thereafter entered a certain house. Minutes later, they arrived there and were told by respondent's wife that she had no objection to their searching the house. Certain officers arrested respondent in an upstairs bedroom when it became clear he was the only man in the house. Others simultaneously searched the first floor and cellar. One found weapons in a flush tank; another, looking "for a man or the money," found in a washing machine clothing of the type the suspect was said to have worn. Ammunition was also found. These items were admitted into evidence without objection at respondent's trial, which resulted in his conviction. After unsuccessful state court proceedings, respondent sought and was denied habeas corpus relief in the District Court. The Court of Appeals found the search lawful, but reversed on the ground that the clothing seized during the search was immune from seizure, being of "evidential value only."


1. "The exigencies of the situation," in which the officers were in pursuit of a suspected armed felon in the house which he had entered only minutes before they arrived, permitted their warrantless entry and search. McDonald v. United States, 335 U.S. 451, 456. Pp. 298-300.

2. The distinction prohibiting seizure of items of only evidential value and allowing seizure of instrumentalities, fruits, or contraband is no longer accepted as being required by the Fourth Amendment. Pp. 300-310.

(a) There is no rational distinction between a search for "mere evidence" and one for an "instrumentality" in terms of the privacy which is safeguarded by the Fourth Amendment; nor does the language of the Amendment itself make such a distinction. Pp. 301-302.

(b) The clothing items involved here are not "testimonial" or "communicative," and their introduction did not compel respondent to become a witness against himself in violation of the Fifth Amendment. Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757. Pp. 302-303.

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(c) The premise that property interests control government's search and seizure rights, on which Gouled v. United States, 255 U.S. 298, partly rested, is no longer controlling as the Fourth Amendment's principal object is the protection of privacy, not property. Pp. 303-306.

(d) The related premise of Gouled that government may not seize evidence for the purpose of proving crime has also been discredited. The Fourth Amendment does not bar a search for that purpose provided that there is probable cause, as there was here, for the belief that the evidence sought will aid in a particular apprehension or conviction. Pp. 306-307.

(e) The remedy of suppression, with its limited functional consequence, has made possible the rejection of both the related Gouled premises. P. 307.

(f) Just as the suppression of evidence does not require the return of such items as contraband, the introduction of "mere evidence" does not entitle the State to its retention if it is being wrongfully withheld. Pp. 307-308.

(g) The numerous and confusing exceptions to the "mere evidence" limitation make it questionable whether it affords any meaningful protection. P. 309.

363 F.2d 647, reversed.

BRENNAN, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

We review in this case the validity of the proposition that there is under the Fourth Amendment a "distinction

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between merely evidentiary materials, on the one hand, which may not be seized either under the authority of a search warrant or during the course of a search incident to arrest, and on the other hand, those objects which may validly be seized including the instrumentalities and means by which a crime is committed, the fruits of crime such as stolen property, weapons by which escape of the person arrested might be effected, and property the possession of which is a crime."1

A Maryland court sitting without a jury convicted respondent of armed robbery. Items of his clothing, a cap, jacket, and trousers, among other things, were seized during a search of his home, and were admitted in evidence without objection. After unsuccessful state court proceedings, he sought and was denied federal habeas corpus relief in the District Court for Maryland.2 A divided panel of the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed. 363 F.2d 647. The Court of Appeals believed that Harris v. United States, 331 U.S. 145, 154, sustained the validity of the search, but held that respondent was [87 S.Ct. 1645] correct in his contention that the clothing seized was improperly admitted in evidence because the items had "evidential value only" and therefore were not

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lawfully subject to seizure. We granted certiorari. 385 U.S. 926. We reverse.3


About 8 a.m. on March 17, 1962, an armed robber entered the business premises of the Diamond Cab Company in Baltimore, Maryland. He took some $363 and ran. Two cab drivers in the vicinity, attracted by shouts of "Holdup," followed the man to 2111 Cocoa Lane. One driver notified the company dispatcher by radio that the man was a Negro about 5'8" tall, wearing a light cap and dark jacket, and that he had entered the house on Cocoa Lane. The dispatcher relayed the information to police who were proceeding to the scene of the robbery. Within minutes, police arrived at the house in a number of patrol cars. An officer knocked and announced their presence. Mrs. Hayden answered, and the officers told her they believed that a robber had entered the house, and asked to search the house. She offered no objection.4

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The officers spread out through the first and second floors and the cellar in search of the robber. Hayden was found in an upstairs bedroom feigning sleep. He was arrested when the officers on the first floor and in the cellar reported that no other man was in the house. Meanwhile, an officer was attracted to an adjoining bathroom by the noise of running water, and discovered a shotgun and a pistol in a flush tank; another officer who, according to the District Court, "was searching the cellar for a man or the money" found in a washing machine a jacket and trousers of the type the fleeing man was said to have worn. A clip of ammunition for the pistol and a cap were found under the mattress of Hayden's bed, and ammunition for the shotgun was found in a bureau drawer in Hayden's room. All these items of evidence were introduced against respondent at his trial.


We agree with the Court of Appeals that neither the entry without warrant to search for the robber, nor the search for him without warrant was invalid. Under the circumstances of this case, "the exigencies of the situation made that course imperative." McDonald v. United States, 335 U.S. 451, 456. The police were informed that an armed robbery had taken place, and that the suspect had entered 2111 Cocoa Lane less than five minutes before they reached it. They acted reasonably when they entered the house and began to search for a man of the description they had been given and for weapons which he had used in the robbery or might use against them. The Fourth Amendment does not require police officers to delay in the course of an investigation

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if to do so would gravely endanger their lives or the lives of others. Speed here was essential, and only a thorough search of the house for persons and weapons could have insured that Hayden was the only man present and that the police had control of all weapons which could be used against them or to effect an escape.

We do not rely upon Harris v. United States, supra, in sustaining the validity of the search. The principal issue in Harris was whether the search there could properly be regarded as incident to the lawful arrest, since Harris was in custody before the search was made and the evidence seized. Here, the seizures occurred prior to or immediately contemporaneous with Hayden's arrest, as part of an effort to find a suspected felon, armed, within the house into which he had run only minutes before the police arrived. The permissible scope of search must, therefore, at the least, be as broad as may reasonably be necessary to prevent the dangers that the suspect at large in the house may resist or escape.

It is argued that, while the weapons, ammunition, and cap may have been seized in the course of a search for weapons, the officer who seized the clothing was searching neither for the suspect nor for weapons when he looked into the washing machine in which he found the clothing. But even if we assume, although we do not decide, that the exigent circumstances in this case made lawful a search without warrant only for the suspect or his weapons, it cannot be said on this record that the officer who found the clothes in the washing machine was not searching for weapons. He testified that he was searching for the man or the money, but his failure to state explicitly that he was searching for weapons, in the absence of a specific question to that effect, can hardly be accorded controlling weight. He knew that the robber was armed and he did not know that some

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weapons had been found at the time he opened the machine.5 In these circumstances, the inference that he was, in fact, also looking for weapons is fully justified.


We come, then, to the question whether, even though the search was lawful, the Court of Appeals was correct in holding that the seizure and introduction of the items of clothing violated the Fourth Amendment because they are "mere evidence." The distinction made by some of our cases between seizure of items of evidential value only and seizure of...

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