Byars v. United States

Decision Date03 January 1927
Docket NumberNo. 72,72
Citation273 U.S. 28,47 S.Ct. 248,71 L.Ed. 520
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Mr. Claude R. Porter, of Des Moines, Iowa, for petitioner.

Mr. Gardner P. Lloyd, of New York City, for the United States.

Mr. Justice SUTHERLAND delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner was convicted in the federal District Court for the Southern District of Iowa upon two counts for unlaw- fully having in his possession with fraudulent intent certain counterfeit strip stamps of the kind used upon whisky bottled in bond. The stamps were admitted in evidence over the objection of petitioner that they had been obtained by an unlawful search and seizure. A timely motion previously made by the petitioner to return or impound the stamps was overruled. The judgment of conviction was affirmed by the Circuit Court of Appeals. 4 F.(2d) 507.

The stamps were found in executing a search warrant issued by the judge of a state municipal court and addressed to 'any peace officer of Des Moines, Polk county, Iowa,' directing search for intoxicating liquors and instruments and materials used in the manufacture of such liquors. The information upon which the search warrant was issued states only that affiant 'has good reason to believe and does believe the defendant has in his possession' such intoxicating liquors, instruments and materials. The warrant clearly is bad if tested by the Fourth Amendment and the laws of the United States. Chapter 30, tit. 11, §§ 3-6, 40 Stat. 217, 228, 229 (Comp. St. §§ 10496 1/4 c-10496 1/4 f); chapter 85, tit. 2, § 2, 41 Stat. 305, 308 (Comp. St. § 10138 1/2 a). See Ripper v. United States (C. C. A.) 178 F. 24, 26; United States v. Borkowski (D. C.) 268 F. 408, 410, 411; United States v. Kelly (D. C.) 277 F. 485, 486-489. Whether it is good under the state law it is not necessary to inquire, since in no event could it constitute the basis for a federal search and seizure, as, under the facts hereinafter stated, it is insisted this was.

Nor is it material that the search was successful in revealing evidence of a violation of a federal statute. A search prosecuted in violation of the Constitution is not made lawful by what it brings to light; and the doctrine has never been recognized by this court, nor can it be tolerated under our constitutional system, that evidences of crime discovered by a federal officer in making a search without lawful warrant may be used against the victim of the unlawful search where a timely challenge has been interposed. Weeks v. United States. 232 U. S. 383, 393, 34 S. Ct. 341, 58 L. Ed. 652, L. R. A. 1915B, 834, Ann. Cas. 1915C, 1177; Gouled v. United States, 255 U. S. 298, 306, 41 S. Ct. 261, 65 L. Ed. 647; Amos v. United States, 255 U. S. 313, 41 S. Ct. 266, 65 L. Ed. 654; Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States, 251 U. S. 385, 391, 40 S. Ct. 182, 64 L. Ed. 319; Agnello v. United States, 269 U. S. 20, 33, 46 S. Ct. 4, 70 L. Ed. 145.

The warrant directs the officer to search certain described premises and, if any of the liquors, instruments or materials set forth in the information are found, to seize the same and keep them until final action be had thereon. It was put into the hands of Mr. Densmore, a local officer in charge of the night liquor bureau of the police station in Des Moines, Iowa, and he, together with three others, proceeded to make the search in circumstances which can best be shown by quoting from the testimony given upon the hearing of the motion to impound or return the property seized. Mr. Densmore testified as follows:

'As I came down stairs, I asked the captain about Mr. Adams, who was there, and I asked him to go with me. Mr. Adams is the federal prohibition agent, stationed here in Des Moines, Iowa, an officer of the government, operating under the Treasury Department. I met him after the warrant has been sued out, and asked him to go with me. I had the warrant at that time. It was in the police station of the city that I met Mr. Adams and requested him to come along. I had not discussed this case with Mr. Adams before that. He went with me from the city building on the search. As far as I know, he did not have any warrant or any authority to go into that residence other than the authority that I may have given him under the warrant I had. The search and seizure was made entirely upon the authority of the warrant that I had obtained at the City Hall. Arriving at the residence, I assigned each man a room. I assigned Adams a room. We found no intoxicating liquors there. The only thing that we found that we took were the stamps in- volved in this case. Mr. Taylor found part of them, and Mr. Adams found part of them. Mr. Adams kept the stamps he found in his possession and those found by Mr. Taylor were turned over to him right at that time. The ones that Adams found and the ones that were given to him were taken possession of by Adams right there in the house of A. J. Byars, immediately after the service. Neither myself or any of the other city officers had possession of those stamps after that evening. There was never any prosecution attempted in the city courts or such courts as I was connected with so far as these stamps were involved.'

Mr. Adams, the federal prohibition agent, testified:

'I remember assisting in the search of the residence of A. J. Byars on the 22d day of April, 1924. Officers Densmore, Taylor, De Haven, and Davis were with me. I met them in the captain's office at the police station in the city of Des...

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