Johnson v. United States, No. 329

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtJACKSON
Citation333 U.S. 10,68 S.Ct. 367,92 L.Ed. 436
PartiesJOHNSON v. UNITED STATES
Docket NumberNo. 329
Decision Date02 February 1948

333 U.S. 10
68 S.Ct. 367
92 L.Ed. 436
JOHNSON

v.

UNITED STATES.

No. 329.
Argued Dec. 18, 1947.
Feb. 2, 1948.

Page 11

Mr. James Skelly Wright, for petitioner.

Mr. Robert Erdahl, of Washington, D.C., for respondent.

Mr. Justice JACKSON delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner was convicted on four counts charging violation of federal narcotic laws.1 The only question which brings the case here is whether it was lawful, without a warrant of any kind, to arrest petitioner and to search her living quarters.

Page 12

Taking the Government's version of disputed events, decision would rest on these facts:

At about 7:30 p.m. Detective Lieutenant Belland, an officer of the Seattle police force narcotic detail, received information from a confidential informer, who was also a known narcotic user, that unknown persons were smoking opium in the Europe Hotel. The informer was taken back to the hotel to interview the manager, but he returned at once saying he could smell burning opium in the hallway. Belland communicated with federal narcotic agents and between 8:30 and 9 o'clock went back to the hotel with four such agents. All were experienced in narcotic work and recognized at once a strong odor of burning opium which to them was distinctive and unmistakable. The odor led to Room 1. The officers did not know who was occupying that room. They knocked and a voice inside asked who was there. 'Lieutenant Belland,' was the reply. There was a slight delay, some 'shuffling or noise' in the room and then the defendant opened the door. The officer said, 'I want to talk to you a little bit.' She then, as he describes it, 'stepped back acquiescently and admitted us.' He said, 'I want to talk to you about the opium smell in the room here.' She denied that there was such a smell. Then he said, 'I want you to consider yourself under arrest because we are going to search the room.' The search turned up incriminating opium and smoking apparatus, the latter being warm, apparently from recent use. This evidence the District Court refused to suppress before trial and admitted over defendant's objection at the trial. Conviction resulted and the Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.2

The defendant challenged the search of her home as a violation of the rights secured to her in common with others, by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

Page 13

The Government defends the search as legally justifiable, more particularly as incident to what it urges was a lawful arrest of the person.

I.

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States provides:

'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.'

Entry to defendant's living quarters, which was the beginning of the search, was demanded under color of office. It was granted in submission to authority rather than as an understanding and intentional waiver of a constitutional right. Cf. Amos v. United States, 255 U.S. 313, 41 S.Ct. 266, 65 L.Ed. 654.

At the time entry was demanded the officers were possessed of evidence which a magistrate might have found to be probable cause for issuing a search warrant. We cannot sustain defendant's contention, erroneously made, on the strength of Taylor v. United States, 286 U.S. 1, 52 S.Ct. 466, 76 L.Ed. 951, that odors cannot be evidence sufficient to constitute probable grounds for any search. That decision held only that odors alone do not authorize a search without warrant. If h e presence of odors is testified to before a magistrate and he finds the affiant qualified to know the odor, and it is one sufficiently distinctive to identify a forbidden substance, this Court has never held such a basis insufficient to justify issuance of a search warrant. Indeed it might very well be found to be evidence of most persuasive character.

The point of the Fourth Amendment, which often is not grasped by zealous officers, is not that it denies law en-

Page 14

forcement the support of the usual inferences which reasonable men draw from evidence. Its protection consists in requiring that those inferences be drawn by a neutral and detached magistrate instead of being judged by the officer engaged in the often competitive enterprise of ferreting out crime.3 Any assumption that evidence sufficient to support a magistrate's disinterested determination to issue a search warrant will justify the officers in making a search without a warrant would reduce the Amendment to a nullity and leave the people's homes secure only in the discretion of police officers.4 Crime, even in the privacy of one's own quarters, is, of course, of grave concern to society, and the law allows such crime to be reached on proper showing. The right of officers to thrust themselves into a home is also a...

To continue reading

Request your trial
3072 practice notes
  • U.S. v. Pace, Nos. 87-2529
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • March 15, 1990
    ...instead of being judged by the officer engaged in the often competitive enterprise of ferreting out crime. Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10, 13-14, 68 S.Ct. 367, 368-69, 92 L.Ed. 436 Savides does not contend that Chief Magistrate Balog had an interest in this case or was biased towards......
  • Dalia v. United States, No. 77-1722
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 18, 1979
    ...instead of being judged by the officer engaged in the often competitive enterprise of ferreting out crime." Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10, 14, 68 S.Ct. 367, 369, 92 L.Ed. 436 (1948). I cannot agree that adherence to this principle would amount to "specification of the precise manner......
  • U.S. v. State , No. 10–16645.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • April 11, 2011
    ...narcotics law, “the lawfulness of the arrest without warrant is to be determined by reference to state law”); Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10, 15 n. 5, 68 S.Ct. 367, 92 L.Ed. 436 (1948) (holding that when state peace officers arrest a person for violation of federal narcotics law, “[s......
  • Serpas v. Schmidt, No. 85-2393
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • July 17, 1987
    ...searches conducted without the safeguard of a warrant are unreasonable and violate the Fourth Amendment, see Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10, 13-14, 68 S.Ct. 367, 368-369, 92 L.Ed. 436 Finally, the appellants argue that the backstretchers impliedly consented to the searches by accepti......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3065 cases
  • U.S. v. Pace, Nos. 87-2529
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • March 15, 1990
    ...instead of being judged by the officer engaged in the often competitive enterprise of ferreting out crime. Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10, 13-14, 68 S.Ct. 367, 368-69, 92 L.Ed. 436 Savides does not contend that Chief Magistrate Balog had an interest in this case or was biased towards......
  • Dalia v. United States, No. 77-1722
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 18, 1979
    ...instead of being judged by the officer engaged in the often competitive enterprise of ferreting out crime." Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10, 14, 68 S.Ct. 367, 369, 92 L.Ed. 436 (1948). I cannot agree that adherence to this principle would amount to "specification of the precise manner......
  • U.S. v. State , No. 10–16645.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • April 11, 2011
    ...narcotics law, “the lawfulness of the arrest without warrant is to be determined by reference to state law”); Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10, 15 n. 5, 68 S.Ct. 367, 92 L.Ed. 436 (1948) (holding that when state peace officers arrest a person for violation of federal narcotics law, “[s......
  • Serpas v. Schmidt, No. 85-2393
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • July 17, 1987
    ...searches conducted without the safeguard of a warrant are unreasonable and violate the Fourth Amendment, see Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10, 13-14, 68 S.Ct. 367, 368-369, 92 L.Ed. 436 Finally, the appellants argue that the backstretchers impliedly consented to the searches by accepti......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
7 books & journal articles
  • Rethinking Police Expertise.
    • United States
    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 131 Nbr. 2, November 2021
    • November 1, 2021
    ...(23.) Jon O. Newman, Watching the Judiciary Watch the Police, 81 MICH. L. REV. 1185, 1189-90 (1983). (24.) Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10, 14 (1948); see Albert W. Alschuler, "Close Enough for Government Work": The Exclusionary Rule After Leon, 1984 SUP. CT. REV. 309, (25.) RlSA GOLU......
  • The Broken Fourth Amendment Oath.
    • United States
    • Stanford Law Review Vol. 74 Nbr. 3, March 2022
    • March 1, 2022
    ...must give way."). (626.) See supra Part I.C. (627.) See Van Duizend et al., supra note 39, at 50. (628.) See Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10, 13-14 (1948). (629.) van Duizend et al., supra note 39, at 68 (noting that some police officers in the study used "a variety of techniques that......
  • Giving up the Ghost in the Machine: Emergency Cellphone Tracking Under 18 U.S.C.
    • United States
    • Missouri Law Review Vol. 86 Nbr. 4, September 2021
    • September 22, 2021
    ...v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443, 467 (1971). (30) Coolidge, 403 U.S. at 454-55; U.S. CONST. amend. IV. (31) Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10, 14 (32) Brigham City, 547 U.S. at 403. (33) Id. (34) Missouri v. McNeely, 569 U.S. 141, 148-49 (2013) (quoting Kentucky v. King, 563 U.S. 452, 46......
  • Against Geofences.
    • United States
    • Stanford Law Review Vol. 74 Nbr. 2, February 2022
    • February 1, 2022
    ...403 U.S. 443, 454-55 (1971), overruled in part on other grounds by Horton v. California, 496 U.S. 128 (1990); Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10,13-15 (113.) See infra Part IV.A.3. (114.) U.S. Const, amend. IV. (115.) Marron v. United States, 275 U.S. 192, 196 (1927). (116.) 2 WAYNE R. L......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT