Carroll v. United States, 15

Citation39 A.L.R. 790,69 L.Ed. 543,45 S.Ct. 280,267 U.S. 132
Decision Date02 March 1925
Docket NumberNo. 15,15
PartiesCARROLL et al. v. UNITED STATES. Re
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

[Syllabus and Statement of the Case from pages 132-136 intentionally omitted] Messrs. Thomas E. Atkinson and Clare J. Hall, both of Grand Rapids, Mich., for plaintiffs in error.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 136-143 intentionally omitted]

Page 143

The Attorney General and Mr. James M. Beck, Sol. Gen., of Washington, D. C., for the United States.

Mr. Chief Justice TAFT, after stating the case as above, delivered the opinion of the Court.

The constitutional and statutory provisions involved in this case include the Fourth Amendment and the National Prohibition Act.

The Fourth Amendment is in part as follows:

'The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.'

Section 25, title 2, of the National Prohibition Act, c. 85, 41 Stat. 305, 315, passed to enforce the Eighteenth Amendment, makes it unlawful to have or possess any liquor intended for use in violating the act, or which has been so used, and provides that no property rights shall exist in such inquor. A search warrant may issue and such liquor, with the containers thereof, may be seized under the warrant and be ultimately destroyed. The section further provides:

'No search warrant shall issue to search any private dwelling occupied as such unless it is being used for the unlawful sale of intoxicating liquor, or unless it is in part used for some business purpose such as a store, shop, saloon, restaurant, hotel, or boaring house. The term 'private dwelling' shall be construed to include the room or rooms used and occupied not transiently but solely as

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a residence in an apartment house, hotel, or boarding house.'

Section 26, title 2, under which the seizure herein was made, provides in part as follows:

'When the commissioner, his assistants, inspectors, or any officer of the law shall discover any person in the act of transporting in violation of the law, intoxicating liquors in any wagon, buggy, automobile, water or air craft, or other vehicle, it shall be his duty to seize any and all intoxicating liquors found therein being transported contrary to law. Whenever intoxicating liquors transported or possessed illegally shall be seized by an officer he shall take possession of the vehicle and team or automobile, boat, air or water craft, or any other conveyance, and shall arrest any person in charge thereof.'

The section then provides that the court upon conviction of the person so arrested shall order the liquor destroyed, and except for good cause shown shall order a sale by public auction of the other property seized, and that the proceeds shall be paid into the Treasury of the United States.

By section 6 of an act supplemental to the National Prohibition Act (42 Stat. 222, 223, c. 134 [Comp. St. Ann. Supp. 1923, § 10184a]) it is provided that if any officer or agent or employee of the United States engaged in the enforcement of the Prohibition Act or this Amendment, 'shall search any private dwelling,' as defined in that act, 'without a warrant directing such search,' or 'shall without a search warrant maliciously and without reasonable cause search any other building or property,' he shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to fine or imprisonment or both.

In the passage of the supplemental act through the Senate, amendment No. 32, known as the Stanley Amendment, was adopted, the relevant part of which was as follows:

'Sec. 6. That any officer, agent or employee of the United States engaged in the enforcement of this act or

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the National Prohibition Act, or any other law of the United States, who shall search or attempt to search the property or premises of any person without previously securing a search warrant, as provided by law, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof shall be fined not to exceed $1,000, or imprisoned not to exceed one year, or both so fined and imprisoned in the discretion of the court.'

This amendment was objected to in the House, and the judiciary committee, to whom it was referred, reported to the House of Representatives the following as a substitute:

'Sec. 6. That no officer, agent or employee of the United States, while engaged in the enforcement of this act, the National Prohibition Act, or any law in reference to the manufacture or taxation of, or traffic in, intoxicating liquor, shall search any private dwelling without a warrant directing such search, and no such warrant shall issue unless there is reason to believe such dwelling is used as a place in which liquor is manufactured for sale or sold. The term 'private dwelling' shall be construed to include the room or rooms occupied not transiently, but solely as a residence in an apartment house, hotel, or boarding house. Any violation of any provision of this paragraph shall be punished by a fine of not to exceed $1,000 or imprisonment not to exceed one year, or both such fine and imprisonment, in the discretion of the court.'

In its report the committee spoke in part as follows:

'It appeared to the committee that the effect of the Senate amendment No. 32, if agreed to by the House, would greatly cripple the enforcement of the National Prohibition Act and would otherwise seriously interfere with the government in the enforcement of many other laws, as its scope is not limited to the prohibition law,

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but applies equally to all laws where prompt action is necessary. There are on the statute books of the United States a number of laws authorizing search without a search warrant. Under the common law and agreeable to the Constitution search may in many cases be legally made without a warrant. The Constitution does not forbid search, as some parties contend, but it does forbid unreasonable search. This provision in regard to search is as a rule contained in the various state Constitutions, but notwithstanding that fact search without a warrant is permitted in many cases, and especially is that true in the enforcement of liquor legislation.

'The Senate amendment prohibits all search or attempt to search any property or premises without a search warrant. The effect of that would necessarily be to prohibit all search, as no search can take place if it is not on some property or premises.

'Not only does this amendment prohibit search of any lands but it prohibits the search of all property. It will prevent the search of the common bootlegger and his stock in trade, though caught and arrested in the act of violating the law. But what is perhaps more serious, it will make it impossible to stop the rum-running automobiles engaged in like illegal traffic. It would take from the officers the power that they absolutely must have to be of any service, for if they cannot search for liquor without a warrant they might as well be discharged. It is impossible to get a warrant to stop an automobile. Before a warrant could be secured the automobile would be beyond the reach of the officer with its load of illegal liquor disposed of.'

The conference report resulted, so far as the difference between the two houses was concerned, in providing for the punishment of any officer, agent, or employee of the government who searches a 'private dwelling' without a warrant, and for the punishment of any such officer,

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etc., who searches any 'other building or property' where, and only where, he makes the search without a warrant 'maliciously and without probable cause.' In other words, it left the way open for searching an automobile or vehicle of transportation without a warrant, if the search was not malicious or without probable cause.

The intent of Congress to make a distinction between the necessity for a search warrant in the searching of private dwellings and in that of automobiles and other road vehicles in the enforcement of the Prohibition Act is thus clearly established by the legislative history of the Stanley Amendment. Is such a distinction consistent with the Fourth Amendment? We think that it is, The Fourth Amendment does not denounce all searches or seizures, but only such as are unreasonable.

The leading case on the subject of search and seizure is Boyd v. United States, 116 U. S. 616, 6 S. Ct. 524, 29 L. Ed. 746. An Act of Congress of June 22, 1874 (18 Stat. 187), authorized a court of the United States in revenue cases, on motion of the government attorney, to require the defendant to produce in court his private books, invoices, and papers on pain in case of refusal of having the allegations of the attorney in his motion taken as confessed. This was held to be unconstitutional and void as applied to suits for penalties or to establish a forfeiture of goods, on the ground that under the Fourth Amendment the compulsory production of invoices to furnish evidence for forfeiture of goods constituted an unreasonable search even where made upon a search warrant, and was also a violation of the Fifth Amendment, in that it compelled the defendant in a criminal case to produce evidence against himself or be in the attitude of confessing his guilt.

In Weeks v. United States, 232 U. S. 383, 34 S. Ct. 341, 58 L. Ed. 652, L. R. A. 1915B, 834, Ann. Cas. 1915C, 1177, it was held that a court in a criminal prosecution could not retain letters of the accused seized in his house, in his absence and without his authority, by a United States marshal

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holding no warrant for his arrest and none for the search of his premises, to be used as evidence against him, the accused having made timely application to the court for an order for the return of the letters.

In Silverthorne Lumber Co. v....

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