Gambino v. United States, 226

Decision Date12 December 1927
Docket NumberNo. 226,226
PartiesGAMBINO et al. v. UNITED STATES
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Mr. Irving K. Baxter, of Utica, N. Y., for petitioners.

The Attorney General and Mrs. Mabel Walker Willebrandt, Asst. Atty. Gen., for the United States.

[Argument of Counsel from page 311 intentionally omitted] Mr. Justice BRANDEIS delivered the opinion of the Court.

On August 1, 1924, Gambino and Lima were arrested by two New York state troopers, near the Canadian border; their automobile within the protection accorded to his person) within the protestion accorded to his person) was searched without a warrant, and intoxicating liquor found therein was seized. They, the liquor and other property taken, were immediately turned over to a federal deputy collector of customs for prosecution in the federal court for northern New York. There the defendants were promptly indicted for conspiracy to import and transport liquor in violation of the National Prohibition Act (27 USCA). They moved seasonably, in advance of the trial and again later, for the suppression of the liquor as evidence and for its return, on the ground that the arrest, the search, and the seizure were without a warrant and without probable cause, in violation of the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments of the federal Constitution. The motion was denied; the evidence was introduced at the trial; the defendants were found guilty; and they were sentenced to fine and imprisonment. the Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment. Neither court delivered an opinion. This court granted a writ of certiorari. 274 U. § 733, 47 S. Ct. 766, 71 L. Ed. 1330.

The government contends that the evidence was admissible, because there was probable cause (Carroll v. United States, 267 U. S. 132, 153, 45 S. Ct. 280, 69 L. Ed. 543, 39 A. L. R. 790), and also because it was not shown that the state troopers were, at the time of the arrest, search, and seizure, agents of the United States. The defendants contend that there was not probable cause, and that the state troopers are to be deemed agents of the United States, because section 26 of title 2 of the National Prohibition Act (27 USCA § 40) imposes the duty of arrest and seizure where liquor is being illegally transported, not only upon the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, his assistants and inspectors, but also upon 'any officer of the law.' We are of opinion on the facts, which it is unnecessary to detail, that there was not probable cause. We are also of opinion that the term 'any officer of the law,' used in section 26, refers only to federal officers, and that the troopers were not at the time of the arrest and seizure, agents of the United States. Compare Dodge v. United States, 272 U. S. 530, 531, 47 S. Ct. 191, 71 L. Ed. 392.

But National Prohibition Act Oct. 28, 1919, c. 85, tit. 2, § 2, 41 Stat. 305, 308 (27 USCA § 11), contemplated some co-operation between the state and the federal governments in the enforcement of the act. Thus section 2 made applicable the provisions of section 1014 of the Revised Statutes (18 USCA § 591), whereby state magistrates were authorized, 'agreeably to the usual mode of process against offenders in such state, and at the expense of the United States,' to arrest and imprison, or bail, offenders against any law of the United States for trial before the federal court, and to require 'recognizances of witnesses for their appearance to testify in the case.' Section 2 also gave specific authority to the state magistrates to issue search warrants under the limitation fixed by the federal statutes. Act June 15, 1917, c. 30, tit. 11, 40 Stat. 217, 228 (18 USCA § 611 et seq.). Evidence obtained through wrongful search and seizure by state officers who are co-operating with federal officials must be excluded. See Flagg v. United States (C. C. A.) 233 F. 481, 483, approved in Silverthorne v. United States, 251 U. S. 385, 392, 40 S. Ct. 182, 64 L. Ed. 319. In Byars v. United States, 273 U. S. 28, 34, 47 S. Ct. 248, 71 L. Ed. 520, evidence obtained by state officers through search and seizure, made without a warrant and without probable cause, but in the presence of a federal official, was held inadmissible. The question here is whether, although the state troopers were not agents of the United States, their relation to the federal prosecution was such as to require the exclusion of the evidence wrongfully obtained.

The Mullan-Gage Law-the state prohibition act-had been repealed in 1923. Act June 1, 1923, c. 871; Laws N. Y. 1923, p. 1690. There is no suggestion that the defendants were committing, at the time of the arrest, search, and seizure, any state offense, or that they had done so in the past, or that the troopers believed that they had. Unless the troopers were authorized to make the arrest, search, and seizure, because they were aiding in the enforcement of a law of the United States, their action would clearly have been wrongful, even if they had had positive knowledge that the defendants were violating the federal law. No federal official was present at the search and seizure, and the defendants made no attempt to establish that the particular search and seizure was made in co-operation with federal officials. But facts of which we take judicial notice (compare Tempel v. United States, 248 U. S. 121, 130, 39 S. Ct. 56, 63 L. Ed. 162), make it clear that the state troopers believed that they were required by law to aid in enforcing the National Prohibition Act, and that they made this arrest, search, and seizure, in the performance of that supposed duty, solely for the purpose of aiding in the federal prosecution.

In the memorandum filed by the Governor approving the act which repealed the Mullan-Gage Law, he declared that all peace officers, thus including state troopers, are officers, to aid in the enforcement of the federal law 'with as much force and as much vigor as including state troopers, are required and that the repeal of the Mullan-Gage Law should make no difference in their action, except that thereafter the peace officers must take the offender to the federal court for prosecution.1 Aid so given was accepted and acted on by the federal officials.2 It appears that one of the troopers who made the arrest and seizure here in question had been stationed at the Canadian border for 18 months prior thereto, the greater part of that period being after the repeal of the Mullan-Gage Law. It was also shown that, immediately after the arrest and seizure, the defendants, their car, and the liquor were, after they had been taken to the committing magistrate, turned over to the federal officers. In view of these facts, the statement, in the affidavit of one of the troopers, that at the time of the arrest and search 'there were no federal officers present, and that we were not working in conjunction with federal officers,' must be taken to mean merely that the specific arrest and search was not directly participated in by any federal officer.

We are of opinion that the admission in evidence of the liquor wrongfully seized violated rights of the defendants guaranteed by the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. The wrongful arrest, search, and seizure were made solely on behalf of the United States. The evidence so secured was the foundation for the prosecution and supplied the only evidence of guilt. It is true that the troopers were not shown to have acted under the directions of the federal officials in making the arrest and seizure. But the rights guaranteed by the Fourth and Fifth Amendments may be invaded as effectively by such co-operation as by the state officers acting under direction of the federal officials. Compare Silverthorne v. United States, 251 U. S. 385, 392, 40 S. Ct. 182, 64 L. Ed. 319. The prosecution thereupon instituted by the federal au- thorities was, as conducted, in effect a ratification of the arrest, search, and seizure made by the troopers on behalf of the United States. Whether the laws of the state actually imposed upon the troopers the duty of aiding the federal officials in the enforcement of the National Prohibition Act we have no occasion to inquire.

The conclusion here reached is not in conflict with any of the earlier decisions of this court in which evidence wrongfully secured by persons other than federal officers has been held admissible in prosecutions for federal crimes. For in none of those cases did it appear that the search and seizure was made solely for the purpose of aiding the United States in the enforcement of its laws. 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, the papers not ordered returned had been obtained by a...

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