One 1958 Plymouth Sedan v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, No. 294

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtGOLDBERG
Citation85 S.Ct. 1246,14 L.Ed.2d 170,380 U.S. 693
PartiesONE 1958 PLYMOUTH SEDAN, Petitioner, v. COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
Decision Date29 April 1965
Docket NumberNo. 294

380 U.S. 693
85 S.Ct. 1246
14 L.Ed.2d 170
ONE 1958 PLYMOUTH SEDAN, Petitioner,

v.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA.

No. 294.
Argued March 31, 1965.
Decided April 29, 1965.

Standord Shmukler, Philadelphia, Pa., (Louis Lipschitz, Jerold G. Klevit, and Lipschitz & Chalfin, Philadelphia, Pa., with him on the brief), for petitioner.

Thomas J. Shannon, Asst. Atty. Gen., Harrisburg, Pa., for respondent.

Page 694

Mr. Justice GOLDBERG delivered the opinion of the Court.

At approximately 6:30 a.m. on December 16, 1960, two law enforcement officers of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board stationed near Camden, New Jersey, at the approach to the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, observed a 1958 Plymouth sedan bearing Pennsylvania license plates proceeding toward the bridge in the direction of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The officers, noting that '(t)he car was low in the rear, quite low,' followed it across the bridge into Philadelphia. They stopped the automobile a short distance within the city, identified themselves and questioned the owner, George McGonigle. The officers then searched the car and, in the rear and the trunk, found 31 cases of liquor not bearing Pennsylvania tax seals. The car and liquor were seized and McGonigle was arrested and charged with violation of Pennsylvania law.1 The officers did not have either a search or arrest warrant.

Pursuant to a Pennsylvania statute2 the Commonwealth filed a petition for forfeiture of the automobile.3 At the hearing, McGonigle, by timely objection, sought dismissal of the forfeiture petition on the ground that the forfeiture of the automobile depended upon the admis-

Page 695

sion of evidence illegally obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution as applied to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment. The trial court sustained this position and dismissed the forfeiture petition. In doing so, the trial judge made a specific finding that '(t)he seizure was founded upon evidence illegally obtained, since under the particular circumstances the officers acted without probable cause.'4 The Superior Court of Pennsylvania, an intermediate appellate court, by a 4-to-3 decision reversed the order dismissing the petition and directed that the automobile be forfeited. 199 Pa.Super. 428, 186 A.2d 52. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania affirmed the order of the Superior Court, one judge dissenting. 414 Pa. 540, 201 A.2d 427.

The basis of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision was that the exclusionary rule, which this Court in Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 657, 81 S.Ct. 1684, 1693, 6 L.Ed.2d 1081, held 'is an essential part of both the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments,' applies only to criminal prosecutions and is not applicable in a forfeiture proceeding which the Pennsylvania court deemed civil in nature. In light of this disposition of the case, the State Supreme Court did not review the trial court's finding of lack of probable cause, stating:

'The thrust of the arguments, both of the appellant and the Commonwealth, is directed to the validity and propriety of the search and the subsequent seizure by the officers of this Plymouth automobile. In our view, such arguments are beyond the point. By reason of the nature of the present proceeding, i.e., a forfeiture procedure, we consider it unnecessary to determine the propriety and validity of the search and the seizure of this automobile.' 414 Pa., at 542; 201 A.2d, at 429.

Page 696

We granted certiorari, 379 U.S. 927, 85 S.Ct. 323, 13 L.Ed.2d 340, to consider the important question of whether the constitutional exclusionary rule enunciated in Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383, 34 S.Ct. 341, 58 L.Ed. 652, and Mapp applies to forfeiture proceedings of the character involved here—a question on which there has been conflict in both state and federal decisions. 5 For the reasons set forth below, we hold that the constitutional exclusionary rule does apply to such forfeiture proceedings and consequently reverse the judgment of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

As this Court has acknowledged, '(t)he leading case on the subject of search and seizure is Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616, 6 S.Ct. 524, 29 L.Ed. 746.' Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132, 147, 45 S.Ct. 280, 283, 69 L.Ed. 543. See Mapp v. Ohio, supra, 367 U.S. at 646—647, 81 S.Ct. at 1686—1687. Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616, 6 S.Ct. 524, 29 L.Ed. 746, itself was not a criminal case but was a proceeding by the United States to forfeit 35 cases of plate glass which had allegedly been imported without payment of the customs duty. The District Judge in the case entered an order compelling the owners of the plate glass to produce certain record which would aid the United States in proving its case for forfeiture. The question before the Court in Boyd was whether the compulsory production of a man's private papers for their evidentiary use against him in a proceeding to forfeit his property for alleged fraud against the revenue laws constituted an unreasonable search and seizure within the

Page 697

meaning of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. In holding that the Fourth Amendment applied and barred such attempted seizure, Mr. Justice Bradley, for the Court stated:

'We are also clearly of opinion that proceedings instituted for the purpose of declaring the forfeiture of a man's property by reason of offenses committed by him, though they may be civil in form, are in their nature criminal. In this very case the ground of forfeiture as declared in the twelfth section of the act of 1874, on which the information is based, consists of certain acts of fraud committed against the public revenue in relation to imported merchandise, which are made criminal by the statute; and it is declared, that the offender shall be fined not exceeding $5,000, nor less than $50, or be imprisoned not exceeding two years, or both; and in addition to such fine such merchandise shall be forfeited. These are the penalties affixed to the criminal acts, the forfeiture sought by this suit being one of them. If an indictment had been presented against the claimants, upon conviction the forfeiture of the goods could have been included in the judgment. If the government prosecutor elects to waive an indictment, and to file a civil information against the claimants,—that is, civil in form,—can he by this device take from the proceeding its criminal aspect and deprive the claimants of their immunities as citizens, and extort from them a production of their private papers, or, as an alternative, a confession of guilt? This cannot be. The information, though technically a civil proceeding, is in substance and effect a criminal one. * * * As, therefore, suits for penalties and forfeitures incurred by the commission of offenses against the law, are of this quasi criminal nature, we think that they are within the reason of criminal proceedings for all

Page 698

the purposes of the fourth amendment of the constitution * * *.' Boyd v. United States, supra, 116 U.S. at 633—634, 6 S.Ct. at 534.

This authoritative statement and the holding by the Court in Boyd that the Government could not seize evidence in violation of the Fourth Amendment for use in a forfeiture proceeding would seem to be dispositive of this case. The Commonwealth, however, argues that Boyd is factually distinguishable as it involved a subpoena sought by the Government for the production of evidence whereas the issue here is the admissibility of illegally seized evidence already in the Government's possession. Although there is this factual difference between Boyd and the case at bar, nevertheless the basic holding of Boyd applies with equal, if not greater, force to the case before us. In both the Boyd situation and here the essential question is whether evidence—in Boyd the books and records, here the results of the search of the car—the obtaining of which violates the Fourth Amendment may be relied upon to sustain a forfeiture. Boyd holds that it may not.

The Commonwealth further argues that Boyd's unequivocal statement that the Fourth Amendment applies to forfeiture proceedings as well as criminal prosecutions has been undermined by the statements of this Court in United States v. Jeffers, 342 U.S. 48, 54, 72 S.Ct. 93, 96, 96 L.Ed. 59, and Trupiano v. United States, 334 U.S. 699, 710, 68 S.Ct. 1229, 1234—1235, 92 L.Ed. 1663. Jeffers and Trupiano, unlike Boyd, were not forfeiture cases. They were federal criminal prosecutions. In both cases the Court held that evidence seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment was not admissible notwithstanding the fact that the evidence involved was contraband. By way of dictum, however, since the point was not before it, the Court stated in these cases that its ruling that the contraband was excludable as illegally seized did not mean that the

Page 699

Government was required to return the illegally imported narcotics to Jeffers or the unregistered still, alcohol and mash to Trupiano.

The nature of the contraband involved in these cases clearly explains these statements of the Court. Both Trupiano and Jeffers concerned objects the possession of which, without more, constitutes a crime.6 The repossession of such per...

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681 practice notes
  • State v. 192 COIN-OP. VIDEO GAME MACH., No. 25061.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • February 7, 2000
    ...Amendment where the property sought to be forfeited is derivative contraband.3 One 1958 Plymouth Sedan v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 380 U.S. 693, 85 S.Ct. 1246, 14 L.Ed.2d 170 338 S.C. 196 (1965). Here, however, there was no jury from which to suppress the evidence. Furthermore, because......
  • Harrell v. City of N.Y., No. 14–CV–7246 (VEC).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • September 30, 2015
    ...instance—are objects, ‘the possession of which, without more, constitutes a crime.’ " (quoting One 1958 Plymouth Sedan v. Pennsylvania, 380 U.S. 693, 699, 85 S.Ct. 1246, 14 L.Ed.2d 170 (1965) )). When contraband is encountered by law enforcement, it is seized, and it is not returned to the ......
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    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • June 2, 2006
    ...531, 550 (9th Cir.2004), and it also applies in the context of civil forfeiture proceedings, see One 1958 Plymouth Sedan v. Pennsylvania, 380 U.S. 693, 696, 85 S.Ct. 1246, 14 L.Ed.2d 170 The United States Supreme Court, however, has carved out a limited number of contexts within which a war......
  • State v. Nunez, No. 23
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • December 30, 1999
    ...a number of times in the subsequent decades including another case the majority did not discuss, One 1958 Plymouth Sedan v. Pennsylvania, 380 U.S. 693, 700, 85 S.Ct. 1246, 14 L.Ed.2d 170 (1965) (stating "a forfeiture proceeding is quasi-criminal in character"). In New Mexico, this "quasi-cr......
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674 cases
  • McKeehan v. United States, No. 20328.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • February 19, 1971
    ...Amendments when civil forfeiture actions take on a quasi-criminal or penal cast. One 1958 Plymouth Sedan v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 380 U.S. 693, 85 S.Ct. 1246, 14 L.Ed.2d 170 (1965); United States v. Boyd, 116 U.S. 616, 6 S.Ct. 524, 29 L.Ed. 746 Lastly, we believe that the dismissal ......
  • United States v. Alavi Found. (In re 650 Fifth Ave. & Related Props.), Docket No. 14-2027
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    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • July 20, 2016
    ...rule applies in forfeiture cases. See 500 Delaware Street , 113 F.3d at 312 n. 3 ; see also One 1958 Plymouth Sedan v. Pennsylvania , 380 U.S. 693, 696, 85 S.Ct. 1246, 14 L.Ed.2d 170 (1965) (holding that the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures applies in......
  • Ralph Martinez, In re, Cr. 13858
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • January 23, 1970
    ...proceedings, proceedings in which the government is one of the adversary parties. (One 1958 Plymouth Sedan v. Pennsylvania (1965) 380 U.S. 693, 85 S.Ct. 1246, 14 L.Ed.2d 170; see People v. One 1960 Cadillac Coupe, 62 Cal.2d 92, 96--97, 41 Cal.Rptr. 290, 396 P.2d 706; cf. Hinchcliff v. Clark......
  • U.S. v. $107,840.00 In U.S. Currency, No. 1:09–cv–036.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States State District Court of Southern District of Iowa
    • April 29, 2011
    ...Law The Fourth Amendment's exclusionary rule is applicable to civil forfeiture proceedings. See One 1958 Plymouth Sedan v. Pennsylvania, 380 U.S. 693, 696, 85 S.Ct. 1246, 14 L.Ed.2d 170 (1965); United States v. $404,905.00 in U.S. Currency, 182 F.3d 643, 646 (8th Cir.1999). Accordingly, a c......
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