Henry v. United States, No. 17

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtDOUGLAS
Citation4 L.Ed.2d 134,80 S.Ct. 168,361 U.S. 98
Decision Date23 November 1959
Docket NumberNo. 17
PartiesJohn Patrick HENRY, Petitioner, v. UNITED STATES

361 U.S. 98
80 S.Ct. 168
4 L.Ed.2d 134
John Patrick HENRY, Petitioner,

v.

UNITED STATES.

No. 17.
Argued Oct. 20, 21, 1959.
Decided Nov. 23, 1959.

Mr. Edward J. Calihan, Jr., Chicago, Ill., for petitioner.

Mr. Kirby W. Patterson, Washington, D.C., for respondent.

Mr. Justice DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner stands convicted of unlawfully possessing three cartons of radios valued at more than $100 which had been stolen from an interstate shipment. See 18 U.S.C. § 659, 18 U.S.C.A. § 659. The issue in the case is whether there was probable cause for the arrest leading to the search that produced the evidence on which the conviction rests. A timely motion to suppress the evidence was made by

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petitioner and overruled by the District Court; and the judgment of conviction was affirmed by the Court of Appeals on a divided vote. 7 Cir., 259 F.2d 725. The case is here on a petition for a writ of certiorari, 359 U.S. 904, 79 S.Ct. 580, 3 L.Ed.2d 570.

There was a theft from an interstate shipment of whiskey at a terminal in Chicago. The next day two FBI agents were in the neighborhood investigating it. They saw petitioner and one Pierotti walk across a street from a tavern and get into an automobile. The agents had been given, by the employer of Pierotti, information of an undisclosed nature 'concerning the implication of the defendant Pierotti with interstate shipments.' But, so far as the record shows, he never went so far as to tell the agents he suspected Pierotti of any such thefts. The agents followed the car and saw it enter an alley and stop. Petitioner got out of the car, entered a gangway leading to residential premises and returned in a few minutes with some cartons. He placed them in the car and he and Pierotti drove off. The agents were unable to follow the car. But later they found it parked at the same place near the tavern. Shortly they saw petitioner and Pierotti leave the tavern, get into the car, and drive off. The car stopped in the same alley as before; petitioner entered the same gangway and returned with more cartons. The agents observed this transaction from a distance of some 300 feet and could not determine the size, number or contents of the cartons. As the car drove off the agents followed it and finally, when they met it, waved it to a stop. As he got out of the car, petitioner was heard to say, 'Hold it; it is the G's.' This was followed by, 'Tell him he (you) just picked me up.' The agents searched the car, placed the cartons (which bore the name 'Admiral' and were addressed to an out-of-state company) in their car, took the merchandise and petitioner and Pierotti to their office and held them for about two hours when the agents learned that the cartons contained

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stolen radios. They then placed the men under formal arrest.

The statutory authority of FBI officers and agents to make felony arrests without a warrant is restricted to offenses committed 'in their presence' or to instances where they have 'reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing' a felony. 18 U.S.C. § 3052, 18 U.S.C.A. § 3052. The statute states the constitutional standard, for it is the command of the Fourth Amendment that no warrants for either searches or arrests shall issue except '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 requirement of probable cause has roots that are deep in our history. The general warrant,1 in which the name of the person to be arrested was left blank, and the writs of assistance, against which James Otis inveighed,2 both perpetuated the oppressive practice of allowing the police to arrest and search on suspicion. Police control took the place of judicial control, since no showing of 'probable cause' before a magistrate was required. The Virginia Declaration of Rights, adopted June 12, 1776, rebelled against that practice:

'That general warrants, whereby any officer or messenger may be commanded to search suspected places without evidence of a fact committed, or to seize any person or persons not named, or whose offence is not particularly described and supported by evidence, are grievous and oppressive, and ought not to be granted.'

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The Maryland Declaration of Rights (1776), Art. XXIII, was equally emphatic:

'That all warrants, without oath or affirmation, to search suspected places, or to seize any person or property, are grievous and oppressive; and all general warrants—to search suspected places, or to apprehend suspected persons, without naming or describing the place, or the person in special—are illegal, and ought not to be granted.'

And see North Carolina Declaration of Rights (1776), Art. XI; Pennsylvania Constitution (1776), Art. X; Massachusetts Constitution (1780), Pt. I, Art. XIV.

That philosophy later was reflected in the Fourth Amendment. And as the early American decisions both before3 and immediately after4 its adoption show, common rumor or report, suspicion, or even 'strong reason to suspect' 5 was not adequate to support a warrant for arrest. And that principle has survived to this day. See United States v. Di Re, 332 U.S. 581, 593—595, 68 S.Ct. 222, 227, 228, 92 L.Ed. 210; Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10, 13 15, 68 S.Ct. 367, 368, 369, 92 L.Ed. 436; Giordenello v. United States, 357 U.S. 480, 486, 78 S.Ct. 1245, 1250, 2 L.Ed.2d 1503. Its high water was Johnson v. United States, supra, where the smell of opium coming from a closed room was not enough to support an arrest and search without a warrant. It was against this background that two scholars recently wrote, 'Arrest on mere suspicion collides violently with the basic human right of liberty.'6

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Evidence required to establish guilt is not necessary. Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160, 69 S.Ct. 1302, 93 L.Ed. 1879; Draper v. United States, 358 U.S. 307, 79 S.Ct. 329, 3 L.Ed.2d 327. On the other hand, good faith on the part of the arresting officers is not enough. Probable cause exists if the facts and circumstances known to the officer warrant a prudent man in believing that the offense has been committed. Stacey v. Emery, 97 U.S. 642, 645, 24 L.Ed. 1035. And see Director General of Railroads v. Kastenbaum, 263 U.S. 25, 28, 44 S.Ct. 52, 53, 68 L.Ed. 146; United States v. Di Re, supra, 332 U.S. 592, 68 S.Ct. 227; Giordenello v. United States, supra, 357 U.S. 486, 78 S.Ct. 1250. It is important, we think, that this requirement be strictly enforced, for the standard set by the Constitution protects both the officer and the citizen. If the officer acts with probable cause, he is protected even though it turns out that the citizen is...

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1752 practice notes
  • McCray v. State of Illinois, No. 159
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 20, 1967
    ...committing an offense. Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160, 175—176, 69 S.Ct. 1302, 1310—1311, 93 L.Ed. 1879; Henry v. United States, 361 U.S. 98, 102, 80 S.Ct. 168, 171, 4 L.Ed.2d 134,' Beck Page 305 v. State of Ohio, supra, 379 U.S. at 91, 85 S.Ct. at 225. It is the petitioner's claim......
  • U.S. v. Caruthers, No. 05-5307.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • August 11, 2006
    ...J.L., 529 U.S. at 268, 120 S.Ct. 1375; Ybarra v. Illinois, 444 U.S. 85, 91, 100 S.Ct. 338, 62 L.Ed.2d 238 (1979); Henry v. United States, 361 U.S. 98, 103-04, 80 S.Ct. 168, 4 L.Ed.2d 134 (1959); Joshua v. DeWitt, 341 F.3d 430, 443-44 (6th Cir.2003); United States v. Barrett, 890 F.2d 855, 8......
  • U.S. v. Williams, Nos. 78-1695
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • August 22, 1979
    ...at the door had reasonable grounds to believe that Michael Williams had violated or was violating the law. See Henry v. United States,361 U.S. 98, 102, 80 S.Ct. 168, 4 L.Ed.2d 134 (1959); Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160, 175, 69 S.Ct. 1302, 93 L.Ed. 1879 (1949). A brief review of th......
  • Di Bella v. United States, No. 349
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • November 23, 1960
    ...for a determination of guilt. Jones v. United States, 1960, 362 U.S. 257, 80 S.Ct. 725, 4 L.Ed.2d 697; Henry v. United States, 1959, 361 U.S. 98, 80 S.Ct. 168, 4 L.Ed.2d 134; Draper v. United States, supra, Brinegar v. United States, 1949, 338 U.S. 160, 69 S.Ct. 1302, 93 L.Ed. 1879; Carroll......
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1750 cases
  • Trujillo v. Rio Arriba Cnty. ex rel. Rio Arriba Cnty. Sheriff's Dep't, No. CIV 15-0901 JB/WPL
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • December 19, 2016
    ...an offense. Beck v. Ohio, 379 U.S. 89, 91 (1964)(citing Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160, 175-76 (1949); Henry v. United States, 361 U.S. 98 (1959)). See Florida v. Harris, 133 S. Ct. 1050, 1055 (2013)(stating that probable cause requires only a "fair probability on which reasonable ......
  • U.S. v. Prandy-Binett, PRANDY-BINETT
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • May 11, 1993
    ...opinion); Arkansas v. Sanders, 442 U.S. 753, 764 n. 13, 99 S.Ct. 2586, 2593 n. 13, 61 L.Ed.2d 235 (1979); Henry v. United States, 361 U.S. 98, 104, 80 S.Ct. 168, 172, 4 L.Ed.2d 134 (1959). This court also has relied upon the demonstrated expertise of police officers in recognizing distincti......
  • McCray v. State of Illinois, No. 159
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 20, 1967
    ...committing an offense. Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160, 175—176, 69 S.Ct. 1302, 1310—1311, 93 L.Ed. 1879; Henry v. United States, 361 U.S. 98, 102, 80 S.Ct. 168, 171, 4 L.Ed.2d 134,' Beck Page 305 v. State of Ohio, supra, 379 U.S. at 91, 85 S.Ct. at 225. It is the petitioner's claim......
  • Ward v. City of Hobbs, No. CIV 18-1025 JB\KRS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • July 31, 2019
    ...officers had probable cause to make it." (citing Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. at 175-76, 69 S.Ct. 1302 ; Henry v. United States, 361 U.S. 98, 102, 80 S.Ct. 168, 4 L.Ed.2d 134 (1959) ); Romero v. Story, 672 F.3d at 886 ("[T]hat statute applies only where law enforcement officers have ......
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2 books & journal articles
  • The Study of Judicial Attitudes: the Case of Mr. Justice Douglas
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 24-1, March 1971
    • March 1, 1971
    ...v. New York, 360 U.S. 315, 324 (1959). Dissenting in Frank v. Maryland, 359 U.S. 360, 374 (1959). Majority in Henry v. United States, 361 U.S. 98 (1960). Concurringin Jones v. United States, 362 U.S. 257, 273 (1960). Concurring in McNeal v. Culver,365 U.S. 109, 117 (1961). Dissenting in Wil......
  • Atwater v. City of Lago Vista
    • United States
    • Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice Nbr. 19-2, May 2003
    • May 1, 2003
    ...practices. In J. T.Walker (Ed.), Policingand the law (pp. 25-42). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.Henry v. United States, 361 U.S. 98 (1959).Knowles v. Iowa, 535 U.S. 113 (1998).Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961).McPherson, S. (2001-2002). Constitutional law—Fourth Amendment warrantlessa......

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