Gouled v. United States, No. 250

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtCLARKE
Citation41 S.Ct. 261,255 U.S. 298,65 L.Ed. 647
PartiesGOULED v. UNITED STATES
Decision Date28 February 1921
Docket NumberNo. 250

255 U.S. 298
41 S.Ct. 261
65 L.Ed. 647
GOULED

v.

UNITED STATES.

No. 250.
Argued Jan. 4, 1920.
Decided Feb. 28, 1921.

Page 299

Messrs. Charles E. Hughes and Martin W. Littleton, both of New York City, for Gouled.

Mr. Solicitor General Frierson, for the United States.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 299-302 intentionally omitted]

Page 302

Mr. Justice CLARKE delivered the opinion of the Court.

In a joint indictment the plaintiff in error, Gouled, one Vaughan, an officer of the United States Army, and a third, an attorney at law, were charged in the first count with being parties to a conspiracy to defraud the United States, in violation of section 37 of the federal Criminal Code (Comp. St. § 10201), and, in the second count, with having used the mails to

Page 303

promote a scheme to defraud the United States, in violation of section 215 of that Code (section 10384). Vaughan pleaded guilty, the attorney was acquitted, and Gouled, whom we shall refer to as the defendant, was convicted, and thereupon prosecuted error to the Circuit Court of Appeals, which certifies to this court six questions which we are to consider.

Of these questions, the first two relate to the admission in evidence of a paper surreptitiously taken from the office of the defendant by one acting under direction of officers of the Intelligence Department of the Army of the United States, and the remaining four relate to papers taken from defendant's office under two search warrants, issued pursuant to the Act of June 15, 1917 (40 Stat. 217, 288 [Comp. St. 1918, Comp. St. Ann. Supp. 1919, §§ 10496 1/4 a—10496 1/4 v]). It was objected on the trial, and is here insisted upon, that it was error to admit these papers in evidence because possession of them was obtained by violating the rights secured to the defendant by the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.

The Fourth Amendment reads:

'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 warrant 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.'

The part of the Fifth Amendment here involved reads:

'No person * * * shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.'

It would not be possible to add to the emphasis with which the framers of our Constitution and this court (in Boyd v. United States, 116 U. S. 616, 6 Sup. Ct. 524, 29 L. Ed. 746, in Weeks v. United States, 232 U. S. 383, 34 Sup. Ct. 341, 58 L. Ed. 652, L. R. A. 1915B, 834, Ann Cas. 1915C, 1177, and in Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States, 251 U. S. 385, 40 Sup. Ct. 182, 64 L. Ed. 319) have declared the importance to political liberty and to the welfare of our country of the due observance of the rights guaranteed under the Constitution

Page 304

by these two amendments. The effect of the decisions cited is: That such rights are declared to be indispensable to the 'full enjoyment of personal security, personal liberty and private property'; that they are to be regarded as of the very essence of constitutional liberty; and that the guaranty of them is as important and as imperative as are the guaranties of the other fundamental rights of the individual citizen—the right to trial by jury, to the writ of habeas corpus, and to due process of law. It has been repeatedly decided that these amendments should receive a liberal construction, so as to prevent stealthy encroachment upon or 'gradual depreciation' of the rights secured by them, by imperceptible practice of courts or by well-intentioned, but mistakenly overzealous, executive officers.

In the spirit of these decisions we must deal with the questions before us.

The facts derived from the certificate, cssential to be considered in answering the first two questions, are: That in January, 1918, it was suspected that the defendant, Gouled, and Vaughan were conspiring to defraud the government through contracts with it for clothing and equipment; that one Cohen, a private in the Army, attached to the Intelligence Department, and a business acquaintance of defendant Gouled, under direction of his superior officers, pretending to make a friendly call upon the defendant gained admission to his office and in his absence, without warrant of any character, seized and carried away several documents; that one of these papers, described as 'of evidential value only' and belonging to Gouled, was subsequently delivered to the United States District Attorney, and was by him introduced in evidence over the objection of the defendant that possession of it was obtained by a violation of the Fourth or Fifth Amendment to the Constitution; and that the defendant did not know that Cohen had carried away any of his papers until

Page 305

he appeared on the witness stand and detailed the facts with respect thereto as we have stated them, when, necessarily, objection was first made to the admission of the paper in evidence.

Out of these facts arise the first two questions, both relating to the paper thus seized. The first of these is:

'Is the secret taking, without force, from the house or office of one suspected of crime, of a paper belonging to him, of evidential value only, by a representative of any branch or subdivision of the government of the United States, a violation of the Fourth Amendment?'

The ground on which the trial court overruled the objection to this paper is not stated, but from the certificate and the argument we must infer that it was admitted, either because it appeared that the possession of it was obtained without the use of force or illegal coercion, or because the objection to it came too late.

The objection was not too late, for, coming as it did promptly upon the first notice the defendant had that the government was in possession of the paper, the rule of practice relied upon, that such an objection will not be entertained unless made before trial, was obviously inapplicable.

The prohibition of the Fourth Amendment is against all unreasonable searches and seizures and if for a government officer to obtain entrance to a man's house or office by force or by an illegal threat or show of force, amounting to coercion, and then to search for and seize his private papers would be an unreasonable and therefore a prohibited search and seizure, as it certainly would be, it is impossible to successfully contend that a like search and seizure would be a reasonable one if only admission were obtained by stealth instead of by force or coercion. The secutiry and privacy of the home or office and of the papers of the owner would be as much invaded and the search and

Page 306

seizure would be as much against his will in the one case as in the other, and it must...

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1008 practice notes
  • Cruz v. Alexander, No. 77 Civ. 5976 (RWS).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • 12 Septiembre 1979
    ...7 See, e. g., Fielding v. LeFevre, 548 F.2d 1102 (2d Cir. 1977). 8 See evolution of the exclusionary rule in Gouled v. United States, 255 U.S. 298, 41 S.Ct. 261, 65 L.Ed. 647 (1921) (scope of rule broadly defined); Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States, 251 U.S. 385, 40 S.Ct. 182, 64 L.E......
  • Stone v. Powell Wolff v. Rice, Nos. 74-1055
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 6 Julio 1976
    ...Prior to the Court's decisions in Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383, 34 S.Ct. 341, 58 L.Ed. 652 (1914), and Gouled v. United States, 255 U.S. 298, 41 S.Ct. 261, 65 L.Ed. 647 (1921), there existed no barrier to the introduction in criminal trials of evidence obtained in violation of the A......
  • United States v. Nelson, No. 71-1155
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • 21 Abril 1972
    ...383 393, 34 S.Ct. 341, 58 L.Ed. 652; Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States, supra, 251 U.S. 391, 40 S.Ct. 182; Gouled v. United States, 255 U.S. 298, 308 41 S.Ct. 261, 65 L.Ed. 647. The protection of the Fourth Amendment extends to all equally,—to those justly suspected or accused, as we......
  • U.S. v. Hardin, No. 06-6277.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • 25 Agosto 2008
    ...Id. at 211, 87 S.Ct. 424. The Supreme Court also distinguished the case before it from the facts in a prior case, Gouled v. United States, 255 U.S. 298, 41 S.Ct. 261, 65 L.Ed. 647 (1921), which the Court described as involving "a business acquaintance of the petitioner, acting under orders ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1007 cases
  • Cruz v. Alexander, No. 77 Civ. 5976 (RWS).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • 12 Septiembre 1979
    ...7 See, e. g., Fielding v. LeFevre, 548 F.2d 1102 (2d Cir. 1977). 8 See evolution of the exclusionary rule in Gouled v. United States, 255 U.S. 298, 41 S.Ct. 261, 65 L.Ed. 647 (1921) (scope of rule broadly defined); Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States, 251 U.S. 385, 40 S.Ct. 182, 64 L.E......
  • Stone v. Powell Wolff v. Rice, Nos. 74-1055
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 6 Julio 1976
    ...Prior to the Court's decisions in Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383, 34 S.Ct. 341, 58 L.Ed. 652 (1914), and Gouled v. United States, 255 U.S. 298, 41 S.Ct. 261, 65 L.Ed. 647 (1921), there existed no barrier to the introduction in criminal trials of evidence obtained in violation of the A......
  • United States v. Nelson, No. 71-1155
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • 21 Abril 1972
    ...383 393, 34 S.Ct. 341, 58 L.Ed. 652; Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States, supra, 251 U.S. 391, 40 S.Ct. 182; Gouled v. United States, 255 U.S. 298, 308 41 S.Ct. 261, 65 L.Ed. 647. The protection of the Fourth Amendment extends to all equally,—to those justly suspected or accused, as we......
  • U.S. v. Hardin, No. 06-6277.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • 25 Agosto 2008
    ...Id. at 211, 87 S.Ct. 424. The Supreme Court also distinguished the case before it from the facts in a prior case, Gouled v. United States, 255 U.S. 298, 41 S.Ct. 261, 65 L.Ed. 647 (1921), which the Court described as involving "a business acquaintance of the petitioner, acting under orders ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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