Andresen v. Maryland

Decision Date29 June 1976
Docket NumberNo. 74-1646,74-1646
Citation427 U.S. 463,96 S.Ct. 2737,49 L.Ed.2d 627
PartiesPeter C. ANDRESEN, Petitioner, v. State of MARYLAND
CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Syllabus

After an investigation by a State's Attorneys' fraud unit of real estate settlement activities in certain Maryland counties indicated that petitioner, while acting as a settlement attorney, had defrauded the purchaser of certain realty (Lot 13T), the investigators obtained warrants to search petitioner's offices. The warrants listed specified items pertaining to Lot 13T to be seized "together with other fruits, instrumentalities and evidence of crime at this (time) unknown." In the ensuing search a number of incriminating documents, including some containing statements made by petitioner, were seized. Petitioner was then charged, Inter alia, with the crime of false pretenses based on a misrepresentation made to the purchaser of Lot 13T that title to the property was clear. Petitioner's motion to suppress the seized documents was granted as to some documents, but with respect to others the trial court ruled that their admission into evidence would not violate the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. At trial, which resulted in petitioner's conviction, a number of the seized items (including documents pertaining to a lot other than Lot 13T but located in the same subdivision and subject to the same liens as Lot 13T) were admitted in evidence, after being authenticated by prosecution witnesses. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals affirmed the conviction and rejected petitioner's constitutional claims. Held:

1. The search of petitioner's offices for business records, their seizure, and subsequent introduction into evidence did not offend the Fifth Amendment's proscription that "(n)o person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself." Although the records seized contained statements that petitioner voluntarily had committed to writing, he was never required to say anything. The search for and seizure of these records were conducted by law enforcement personnel, and when the records were introduced at trial, they were authenticated by prosecution witnesses, not by petitioner. Therefore, any compulsion of petitioner to speak, other than the inherent psychological pressure to respond at trial to unfavorable evidence, was not present. Pp. 470-477.

2. The searches and seizures were not "unreasonable" in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Pp. 478-484.

(a) The warrants were not rendered fatally "general" by the "together with" phrase, which appeared in each warrant at the end of a sentence listing the specified items to be seized, all pertaining to Lot 13T. This phrase must be read as authorizing only the search for and seizure of evidence relating to the crime of false pretenses with respect to Lot 13T. Pp. 479-482.

(b) The seizure of the documents pertaining to a lot other than Lot 13T in the same subdivision and subject to the same liens as Lot 13T did not violate the principle that when police seize " 'mere evidence,' probable cause must be examined in terms of cause to believe that the evidence sought will aid in a particular apprehension or conviction," Warden v. Hayden, 387 U.S. 294, 307, 87 S.Ct. 1642, 1650, 18 L.Ed.2d 782. The investigators reasonably could have believed that the evidence specifically dealing with fraudulent conduct respecting the other lot could be used to show petitioner's intent to defraud with respect to Lot 13T, and although such evidence was used to secure additional charges against petitioner, its suppression was not required. Pp. 482-484.

24 Md.App. 128, 331 A.2d 78, affirmed.

Peter C. Andresen, Kensington, Md., pro se, by Jon F. Oster, Baltimore, Md., for respondent.

A. Raymond Randolph, Jr., Washington, D. C., for the United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of Court.

Mr. Justice BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents the issue whether the introduction into evidence of a person's business records, seized during a search of his offices, violates the Fifth Amendment's command that "(n)o person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself." We also must determine whether the particular searches and seizures here were "unreasonable" and thus violated the prohibition of the Fourth Amendment.

I

In early 1972, a Bi-County Fraud Unit, acting under the joint auspices of the State's Attorneys' Offices of Montgomery and Prince George's Counties, Md., began an investigation of real estate settlement activities in the Washington, D. C., area. At the time, petitioner Andresen was an attorney who, as a sole practitioner, specialized in real estate settlements in Montgomery County. During the Fraud Unit's investigation, his activities came under scrutiny, particularly in connection with a transaction involving Lot 13T in the Potomac Woods subdivision of Montgomery County. The investigation, which included interviews with the purchaser, the mortgage holder, and other lienholders of Lot 13T, as well as an examination of county land records, disclosed that petitioner, acting as settlement attorney, had defrauded Standard-Young Associates, the purchaser of Lot 13T. Petitioner had represented that the property was free of liens and that, accordingly, no title insurance was necessary, when in fact, he knew that there were two outstanding liens on the property. In addition, investigators learned that the lienholders, by threatening to foreclose their liens, had forced a halt to the purchaser's construction on the property. When Standard-Young had confronted petitioner with this information, he responded by issuing, as an agent of a title insurance company, a title policy guaranteeing clear title to the property. By this action, petitioner also defrauded that insurance company by requiring it to pay the outstanding liens.

The investigators, concluding that there was probable cause to believe that petitioner had committed the state crime of false pretenses, see Md.Ann.Code, Art. 27, § 140 (1976), against Standard-Young, applied for warrants to search petitioner's law office and the separate office of Mount Vernon Development Corporation, of which petitioner was incorporator, sole shareholder, resident agent, and director. The application sought permission to search for specified documents pertaining to the sale and conveyance of Lot 13T. A judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit of Montgomery County concluded that there was probable cause and issued the warrants.

The searches of the two offices were conducted simultaneously during daylight hours on October 31, 1972.1 Petitioner was present during the search of his law office and was free to move about. Counsel for him was present during the latter half of the search. Between 2% And 3% Of the files in the office were seized. A single investigator, in the presence of a police officer, conducted the search of Mount Vernon Development Corporation. This search, taking about four hours, resulted in the seize of less than 5% Of the corporation's files.

Petitioner eventually was charged, partly by information and partly by indictment, with the crime of false pretenses, based on his misrepresentation to Standard-Young concerning Lot 13T, and with fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary, based on similar false claims made to three home purchasers. Before trial began, petitioner moved to suppress the seized documents. The trial court held a full suppression hearing. At the hearing, the State returned to petitioner 45 of the 52 items taken from the offices of the corporation. The trial court suppressed six other corporation items on the ground that there was no connection between them and the crimes charged. The net result was that the only item seized from the corporation's offices that was not returned by the State or suppressed was a single file labeled "Potomac Woods General." In addition, the State returned to petitioner seven of the 28 items seized from his law office, and the trial court suppressed four other law office items based on its determination that there was no connection between them and the crime charged.

With respect to all the items not suppressed or returned, the trial court ruled that admitting them into evidence would not violate the Fifth and Fourth Amendments. It reasoned that the searches and seizures did not force petitioner to be a witness against himself because he had not been required to produce the seized documents, nor would he be compelled to authenticate them. Moreover, the search warrants were based on probable cause, and the documents not returned or suppressed were either directly related to Lot 13T, and therefore within the express language of the warrants, or properly seized and otherwise admissible to show a pattern of criminal conduct relevant to the charge concerning Lot 13T.

At trial, the State proved its case primarily by public land records and by records provided by the complaining purchasers, lienholders, and the title insurance company. It did introduce into evidence, however, a number of the seized items. Three documents from the "Potomac Woods General" file, seized during the search of petitioner's corporation, were admitted. These were notes in the handwriting of an employee who used them to prepare abstracts in the course of his duties as a title searcher and law clerk. The notes concerned deeds of trust affecting the Potomac Woods subdivision and related to the transaction involving Lot 13T.2 Five items seized from petitioner's law office were also admitted. One contained information relating to the transactions with one of the defrauded home buyers. The second was a file partially devoted to the Lot 13T transaction; among the documents were settlement statements, the deed conveying the property to Standard-Young Associates, and the original and a copy of a notice to the buyer about releases of liens. The third item was a file devoted...

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