Lustig v. United States, 1389

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation69 S.Ct. 1372,338 U.S. 74,93 L.Ed. 1819
Docket NumberNo. 1389,1389
Decision Date27 June 1949

Mr. Edward Halle, New York City, for petitioner.

Mr. Philip B. Perlman, Sol. Gen., Washington, D.C., for respondent.

Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER announced the judgment of the Court and an opinion in which Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, Mr. Justice MURPHY and Mr. Justice RUTLEDGE join.

This is a prosecution under the counterfeiting statutes. Rev.Stat. § 5430, 35 Stat. 1116, 18 U.S.C. § 264 (now § 474). he sole question before us is the correctness of the denial of a pretrial motion, sustained by the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, 159 F.2d 798, to suppress evidence claimed to have been seized in contravention of the Fourth Amendment as it is to be applied under the doctrine of Byars v. United States, 273 U.S. 28, 47 S.Ct. 248, 71 L.Ed. 520.1

Since the legal issue turns on the precise circumstances of this case they must be stated with particularity.

At about 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 10, 1946, Secret Service Agent Greene received two telephone calls, one from the police of Camden, New Jersey, the other from the manager of a hotel in that city, indicating violations of the counterfeiting statutes being carried on in Room 402 of the hotel. Lustig, the petitioner here, and one Raynolds were registered for this room under assumed names. It is to be noted that the Secret Service is the agency of the Government charged with enforcement of the laws pertaining to counterfeiting. On looking through the keyhole of the suspect room after reaching the hotel, Greene saw Lustig, two brief cases and a large suitcase, but no evidence pertinent to counterfeiting. He questioned the chambermaid whose suspicions had led to this investigation. She recounted the hearing of noises 'like glass hitting against glass or metal hitting against metal' emanating from the suspect room. She also remarked that she had seen what looked like money on the table.

Greene thereupon reported to Detective Arthur of the Camden police at the Camden Police Station that he had seen no evidence of counterfeiting but was confident that 'something was going on.' Arthur reported the affair by telephone to his superior, Captain Koerner, at his home, who then came to the police station. In his account of the affair Greene gave to Koerner the names under which the occupants of the room had registered. In reply to inquiry by Captain Koerner, Sergeant Murphy of the Camden police stated that one of the names was that of a 'racehorse man or a tout or a bookie.' After verifying the names on the hotel register and on the assumption that the occupants of the room 'might be trying to counterfeit racetrack tickets' rather than currency, Koerner secured warrants for the arrest of persons bearing the names on the register in order to 'get into that room and find out what was in there.' The offense charged against those bearing the assumed names was the violation of a Camden ordinance requiring 'known criminals' to register with the local police within twenty-four hours after their arrival in town. At about four o'clock in the afternoon of the same day Koerner and three city detectives secured a key from the manager of the hotel and entered Room 402. The police officers proceeded to empty the bags and the drawers of a bureau and thus came upon the evidence sought to be suppressed. What they found indicated counterfeiting of currency rather than of race-track tickets.

During all this time, Greene had remained at police headquarters because he 'was curious to see what they would find.' On finding what they did find, Koerner sent word to Greene, who came to the hotel and examined the evidence in controversy. When Lustig and Reynolds eventually returned they were arrested and searched by the detectives. As various articles were taken out of their pockets, those deemed to have bearing on counterfeiting currency were turned over to Greene. He observed that the ink on a $100 bill taken from Reynolds had not been tampered with. Greene was trying to discover what had been used to make the impression on the 'similitude' found in the room. After the search was completed, Greene and the city police gathered up the articles revealed by the search and carried them to the police station. Some of these articles were given to Greene before he left Room 402; all were eventually turned over to him.

We are confronted by a ruling of the District Court, sustained by the Court of Appeals, admitting the evidence. But the question before us is not foreclosed by the respect to be accorded to a ruling on an issue of fact by the trial court until analysis discloses that the ruling was merely on an issue of fact and that no issue of law was entwined in the ruling. Insofar as what the lower courts found as facts may properly be so regarded, they are to be accepted; but their constitutional significance is another matter.

On the basis of what was before him the trial judge admitted the evidence because he did not 'see any connivance or arrangement on the part of the Federal officers to have an illegal search made to get evidence they could not secure under the Federal law.' We therefore accept as a fact that Greene did not request the search, that, beyond indicating to the local police that there was something wrong, he was not the moving force of the search, and that the search was not undertaken by the police to help enforcement of a federal law. But search is a functional, not merely a physical, process. Search is not completed until effective appropriation, as part of an uninterrupted transaction, is made of illicitly obtained objects for subsequent proof of an offense. Greene's selection of the evidence deemed important for use in a federal prosecution for counterfeiting, as part of the entire transaction in Room 402, was not severable, and therefore was part of the search carried on in that room. The uncontroverted facts show that before the search was concluded Greene was called in, and although he himself did not help to empty the physical containers of the seized articles he did share in the critical examination of the uncovered articles as the physical search proceeded. It surely can make no difference whether a state officer turns up the evidence and hands it over to a federal agent for his critical inspection with the view to its use in a federal prosecution, or the federal agent himself takes the articles out of a bag. It would trivialize law to base legal significance on such a differentiation. Had Greene accompanied the city police to the hotel, his participation could not be open to question even though the door of Room 402 had not been opened by him. See Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10, 68 S.Ct. 367, 92 L.Ed. 436. To differentiate between participation from the beginning of an illegal search and joining it before it had run its course, would be to draw too fine a line in the application of the prohibition of the Fourth Amendment as interpreted in Byars v. United States, supra, 273 U.S. 28, 47 S.Ct. 248, 71 L.Ed. 520.

The crux of that doctrine is that a search is a search by a federal official if he had a hand in it; it is not a search by a federal official if evidence secured by state authorities is turned over to the federal authorities on a silver platter. The decisive factor in determining the applicability of the Byars case is the actuality of a share by a federal official in the total enterprise of securing and selecting evidence by other than sanctioned means. It is immaterial whether a federal agent originated the idea or joined in it while the search was in progress. So long as he was completely accomplished, he must be deemed to have participated in it. Where there is participation on the part of federal officers it is not necessary to consider what would be the result if the search had been conducted entirely by State officers. Evidence secured through such federal participation is inadmissible for the same considerations as those which made 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 governing pri ciple in federal prosecutions.

Though state officers preceded Greene in illegally rummaging through the bags and bureau drawers in Room 402, they concerned themselves especially with turning up evidence of violations of the federal counterfeiting laws after Greene joined them. He was an expert in counterfeiting matters and had a vital share in sifting the evidence as the search proceeded. He exercised an expert's discretion in selecting or rejecting evidence that bore on counterfeiting. The fact that state officers preceded him in breach of the rights of privacy does not negative the legal significance of this collaboration in the illegal enterprise before it had run its course. Greene himself acknowledged such participation by his remark about 'leaving the room after we had gathered all this evidence together.'

Nor is the search here defensible as incidental to a lawful arrest. Greene never made the arrest, he knew that Lustig and Reynolds were not present when he entered their room and he had an active hand in the continuation of the search without warrant before Lustig and Reynolds had...

To continue reading

Request your trial
328 cases
  • People v. Cahan, Cr. 5670
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • April 27, 1955 not defendant's the rule does not apply. Burdeau v. McDowell, 256 U.S. 465, 41 S.Ct. 574, 65 L.Ed. 1048; Lustig v. United States, 338 U.S. 74, 78-79, 69 S.Ct. 1372, 93 L.Ed. 1819; Connolly v. Medalie, 2 Cir., 58 F.2d 629; Kelley v. United States, 8 Cir., 61 F.2d 843; Parker v. United Sta......
  • State v. Knight
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • July 11, 1996
    ...and then delivered the confession to state agents " 'on a silver platter.' " Id. at 347, 554 A.2d 1315 (quoting Lustig v. United States, 338 U.S. 74, 79, 69 S.Ct. 1372, 1374, 93 L.Ed. 1819, 1823 (1949), overruled by Elkins v. United States, 364 U.S. 206, 80 S.Ct. 1437, 4 L.Ed.2d 1669 (1960)......
  • Shuler v. Wainwright, Civ. No. 64-129.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • May 4, 1972
    ...S.Ct. 367, 92 L.Ed. 436 (1948). See also United States v. Jeffers, 342 U.S. 48, 72 S.Ct. 93, 96 L.Ed. 59 (1951); Lustig v. United States, 338 U.S. 74, 69 S.Ct. 1372, 93 L.Ed. 1819 (1949). If this were not the rule, then the constitutionally guaranteed protection would depend upon the unfett......
  • United States v. Maccani, 20-CR-90-CJW-MAR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • March 12, 2021
    ...Amendment protections for tenants). A hotel room has long been considered a home for Fourth Amendment purposes. Lustig v. United States , 338 U.S. 74, 69 S.Ct. 1372, 93 L.Ed. 1819 (1949) ; Stoner v. California , 376 U.S. 483, 84 S.Ct. 889, 11 L.Ed.2d 856 (1964). Even a camping tent has been......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 books & journal articles
  • Dirty Silver Platters: The Enduring Challenge of Intergovernmental Investigative Illegality
    • United States
    • Iowa Law Review No. 99-1, November 2013
    • November 1, 2013
    ...United States, 273 U.S. 28, 32 (1927). 6 . Id. at 33. 7 . Gambino v. United States, 275 U.S. 310, 314 (1927). 8 . Lustig v. United States, 338 U.S. 74, 78–79 (1949). 9 . See Elkins v. United States, 364 U.S. 206, 208 & n.2 (1960). 10 . Id. at 223. 296 IOWA LAW REVIEW [Vol. 99:293 In its nex......
  • Fusion Centers and the Fourth Amendment: Application of the Exclusionary Rule in the Post-9/11 Age of Information Sharing
    • United States
    • Capital University Law Review No. 38-4, July 2010
    • July 1, 2010
    ...v. United States, 350 U.S. 214, 217–18 (1956). 148 Elkins v. United States, 364 U.S. 206, 208 (1960) (overruling Lustig v. United States, 338 U.S. 74, 78–79 (1949) (permitting federal prosecutors to use unconstitutionally obtained evidence so long as federal law enforcement personnel had no......
  • The Supreme Court as Protector of Civil Rights: Criminal Justice
    • United States
    • ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, The No. 275-1, May 1951
    • May 1, 1951
    ...Rutledge, JJ., dissenting; Fay v. Reed, Jackson, Burton, JJ., dissenting; *Lustig New York, 332 U. S. 261 (1947)-Black, v. United States, 338 U. S. 74 (1949)—Vinson, Douglas, Murphy, Rutledge, JJ., dissenting; C.J., Reed, Jackson, Burton, JJ., dissenting; *Haley v. Ohio, 332 U. S. 596......

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