Carroll v. United States

Decision Date24 June 1957
Docket NumberNo. 571,571
PartiesLeon F. CARROLL and Daniel J. Stewart, Petitioners, v. UNITED STATES of America
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

[Syllabus from pages 394-395 intentionally omitted] Mr. Curtis P. Mitchell, Washington, D.C., for petitioners.

Mr. Harold H. Greene, Washington, D.C., for respondent.

Mr. Chief Justice WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioners were arrested in February 1954 on John Doe warrants and subsequently were indicted in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, with two others, for violations of the local lottery laws and for conspiracy to carry on a lottery.1 After indictment each filed a pre-trial motion under Rule 41(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure,2 asking for the suppression of evidence seized from his person at the time of his arrest. The District Court granted petitioners' motions to suppress, on the ground that probable cause had been lacking for the issuance of the arrest warrants directed against them.3 United States v. Hall, D.C., 126 F.Supp. 620. The Government appealed the order for suppression to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The indictment against petitioners had not been dismissed, but the Government informed the Court of Appeals that, without the 'numbers' paraphernalia seized and suppressed, it would lack sufficient evidence to proceed on any of the counts involving petitioners and therefore would have to dismiss the indictment. Petitioners challenged the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals to hear an appeal by the Government from an order of the District Court granting a motion to suppress that was made while an indictment was pending in the same District Court. The Court of Appeals sustained its jurisdiction on the authority of its prior decision in United States v. Cefaratti,4 and reversed the district judge on the merits, holding that there had been probable cause to justify the issuance of warrants for the arrest of petitioners. 98 U.S.App.D.C. 244, 234 F.2d 679. We granted certiorari, limited to the question of appealability of the suppression order, because of the importance of that question to the administration of the federal criminal laws. 352 U.S. 906, 77 S.Ct. 151, 1 L.Ed.2d 117.

The Government contends, most broadly, that the suppression order of any District Court is 'final' and sufficiently separable and collateral to the criminal case to be appealable under the general authority of 28 U.S.C. § 1291, 28 U.S.C.A. § 1291, notwithstanding that such an order is not listed among the few types of orders in criminal cases from which the Government may appeal pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3731, 18 U.S.C.A. § 3731.5 More narrowly, failing acceptance of the posi- tion just stated, the Government maintains that an order of suppression is, within the criminal case, a 'final' order and thus appealable under the statutory provisions for appeals by the Government in criminal cases that are applicable exclusively in the District of Columbia. 6 It will be convenient to discuss the issues in the same order.


It is axiomatic, as a matter of history as well as doctrine, that the existence of appellate jurisdiction in a specific federal court over a given type of case is dependent upon authority expressly conferred by statute. And since the jurisdictional statutes prevailing at any given time are so much a product of the whole history of both growth and limitation of federal-court jurisdiction since the First Judiciary Act, 1 Stat. 73, they have always been interpreted in the light of that history and of the axiom that clear statutory mandate must exist to found jurisdiction. It suffices to cite as authority for these principles some of the cases in which they have been applied to the general problem now before us, the availability of appellate review sought by the Government in criminal cases. E.g., United States v. More, 3 Cranch 159, 2 L.Ed. 397; United States v. Sanges, 144 U.S. 310, 12 S.Ct. 609, 36 L.Ed. 445; In re Heath, 144 U.S. 92, 12 S.Ct. 615, 36 L.Ed. 358; Cross v. United States, 145 U.S. 571, 12 S.Ct. 842, 36 L.Ed. 821; United States v. Burroughs, 289 U.S. 159, 53 S.Ct. 574, 77 L.Ed. 1096.7

There is a further principle, also supported by the history of federal appellate jurisdiction, that importantly pertains to the present problem. That is the concept that in the federal jurisprudence, at least,8 appeals by the Government in criminal cases are something unusual, exceptional, not favored. The history shows resistance of the Court to the opening of an appellate route for the Government until it was plainly provided by the Congress, and after that a close restriction of its uses to those authorized by the statute. Indeed, it was 100 years before the defendant in a criminal case, even a capital case, was afforded appellate review as of right.9 And after review on behalf of convicted defendants was made certain by the Acts of 1889 and 1891, the Court continued to withhold an equivalent remedy from the Government, despite the existence of colorable statutory authority for permitting the Government to appeal in those important cases where a preosecution was dismissed upon the trial court's opinion of the proper construction or the constitutional validity of a federal statute.10 When the Congress responded to the problem of such cases, in the Criminal Appeals Act of 1907, now 18 U.S.C. § 3731, 18 U.S.C.A. § 3731 it did so with careful expression of the limited types of orders in criminal cases as to which the Government might thenceforth have review.11 It was as late as 1942 before the Criminal Appeals Act was amended to permit appeals by the Government from decisions, granting dismissal or arrest of judgment, other than those grounded by the trial court upon the construction or invalidity of a statute.12

It is true that certain orders relating to a criminal case may be found to possess sufficient independence from the main course of the prosecution to warrant treatment as plenary orders, and thus be appealable on the authority of 28 U.S.C. § 1291, 28 U.S.C.A. § 1291, without regard to the limitations of 18 U.S.C. § 3731, 18 U.S.C.A. § 3731, just as in civil litigation orders of equivalent distinctness are appealable on the same authority without regard to the limitations of 28 U.S.C. § 1292, 28 U.S.C.A. § 1292.13 The instances in criminal cases are very few. The only decision of this Court applying to a criminal case the reasoning of Cohen v. Beneficial Loan Corp., 337 U.S. 541, 69 S.Ct. 1221, 93 L.Ed. 1528, held that an order relating to the amount of bail to be exacted falls into this category. Stack v. Boyle, 342 U.S. 1, 72 S.Ct. 1, 96 L.Ed. 3. Earlier cases illustrated, sometimes without discussion, that under certain conditions orders for the suppression or return of illegally seized property are appealable at once, as where the motion is made prior to indictment,14 or in a different district from that in which the trial will occur,15 or after dismissal of the case,16 or perhaps where the emphasis is on the return of property rather than its suppression as evidence. 17 In such cases, as appropriate, the Government as well as the moving person has been permitted to appeal from an adverse decision. Burdeau v. McDowell, 256 U.S. 465, 41 S.Ct. 574, 65 L.Ed. 1048.

But a motion made by a defendant after indictment and in the district of trial has none of the aspects of independent just noted, as the Court held in Cogen v. United States, 278 U.S. 221, 49 S.Ct. 118, 73 L.Ed. 275. As the opinion by Mr. Justice Brandeis explains, the denial of a pre-trial motion in this posture is interlocutory in form and real effect, and thus not appealable at the instance of the defendant. We think the granting of such a motion also has an interlocutory character, and therefore cannot be the subject of an appeal by the Government. In the present case the Government argues, as it offered to stipulate below, that the effect of suppressing the evidence seized from petitioners at their arrests will be to force dismissal of the indictment for lack of evidence on which to go forward. But that is not a necessary result of a suppression order relating to particular items of evidence, nor have we been shown whether it will be the result in practice in the generality of cases. Appeal rights cannot depend on the facts of a particular case. The Congress necessarily has had to draw the jurisdictional statutes in terms of categories. To fit an order granting suppression before trial in a criminal case into the category of 'final decisions' requires a straining that is not permissible in the light of the principles and the history concerning criminal appeals, especially Government appeals, that are outlined above and more fully set forth in the cases cited.18 Other Courts of Appeals that have considered the problem have concluded that this order is not 'final' or appealable at the behest of the Government.19

The Government exhorts us not to exalt form over substance, in contending that the present order has virtually the same attributes as the suppression orders found reviewable in earlier cases. We do not agree that the order entered in a pending criminal case has the same characteristics of independence and completeness as a suppression order entered under other circumstances. Moreover, in a limited sense, form is substance with respect to ascertaining the existence of appellate jurisdiction. While it is always necessary to categorize a situation realistically, to place a given order according to its real effect, it remains true that the categories themselves were defined by the Congress in terms of form. Many interlocutory decisions of a trial court may be of grave importance to a litigant, yet are not amenable to appeal at the time entered, and some are never satisfactorily reviewable. In particular is this true of the Government in a criminal case,...

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