Schencks v. United States

Decision Date03 November 1924
Docket NumberNo. 3936.,3936.
Citation2 F.2d 185,55 App. DC 84
PartiesSCHENCKS v. UNITED STATES.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit

T. M. Wampler, of Washington, D. C., for appellant.

Peyton Gordon, O. E. Koegel, and John H. Burnett, all of Washington, D. C., for appellee.

Before MARTIN, Chief Justice, ROBB, Associate Justice, and SMITH, Judge of the United States Court of Customs Appeals.

SMITH, Acting Associate Justice.

On the 5th day of April, 1922, the United States commissioner for the District of Columbia issued a search warrant directing Samuel L. Rakusin, a federal narcotic inspector, to make a search of premises occupied by Leon Schencks and Maude Briscoe, and to seize if found all opium, cocaine, coca leaves, and preparations and derivatives thereof, together with marked money as well as goods, wares, and merchandise subject to seizure under the internal revenue laws of the United States. That warrant was issued on the affidavit of Samuel L. Rakusin and Robert A. Sanders. Rakusin deposed that he had reason to believe and did believe that a fraud upon the revenue laws had been or was in course of being committed in respect to narcotic drugs at 448 First street N. W., Washington, D. C., premises then or recently occupied by Leon Schencks and Maude Briscoe; that the reason for his belief was that on March 9, 1922, a bottle of cocaine was purchased from Maude Briscoe by John Redyns on said premises; that the articles to be seized were morphine and opium, cocaine, and derivatives of opium and coca leaves. Sanders deposed in his affidavit that he was informed by John Redyns that on March 9, 1922, at the premises 448 First street S. W., Washington, D. C., then occupied by Leon Schencks and Maude Briscoe, he, said John Redyns, purchased from Maude Briscoe one vial of cocaine, and paid her therefor the sum of $2. Neither of the affidavits stated that the money paid for the cocaine was marked. John Redyns made no affidavit, and the record does not disclose that Redyns appeared before the commissioner, or that Redyns declared under oath that he (Redyns) had purchased on said premises any cocaine or other drugs from Maude Briscoe or any other person. The search warrant was executed by Samuel L. Rakusin, and he seized on or about the premises specified in the warrant 17 vials of cocaine, a number of capsules containing cocaine, two marked $1 bills, a round paper box, a handkerchief, $497 in bills, $30 in gold, and various articles of jewelry valued at $650.

On the 28th of April, 1922, the grand jury returned an indictment containing five counts, which charged Maude P. Schencks, otherwise known as Maude Briscoe, with violating what is commonly known as the Harrison Anti-Narcotic Act (Comp. St. § 6287g-6287q). On that indictment Maude P. Schencks was on the 20th of June, 1922, brought to trial before the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia and a jury duly impaneled, whereupon a motion was made to quash the search warrant on the ground that it was void, inasmuch as there was no reasonable or probable cause shown for its issuance. The court denied the motion to quash, and the defendant excepted.

During the progress of the trial, and over the objection and exception of the defendant, testimony was introduced by the prosecution as to the articles seized under the search warrant, and all of such articles, except the $497 in bills, the $30 in gold, and the jewelry, were, subject to like objection and exception, admitted in evidence against the defendant.

The jury returned a verdict of not guilty on the first, second, and third counts, but found the defendant guilty on the fourth and fifth counts, which charged that the defendant sold narcotics, and sold narcotics in other than original stamped packages. On the verdict returned the defendant was sentenced to imprisonment for five years in a penitentiary to be designated by the Attorney General, and from that judgment the appeal now under consideration was taken.

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution prescribes in terms that cannot be mistaken that 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 that 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. The principle of that amendment found favor with the American people a long time before they thought of a Declaration of Independence, a Confederation of States, or a Constitution which would secure their property, their persons, and their homes against unwarranted invasion.

The colonists had no objection to searches and seizures which were ordered upon reasonable grounds for the enforcement of the laws of the land and which the public welfare demanded. They had been taught, however, by the writs of assistance, which met with scant approval even in England, that police officers could not be safely intrusted with unchecked and unrestricted powers to have their will with the person, the property, or the home of the citizen, and they resented with all their souls the issuance of process which left no one responsible for wrongful or unjustified intrusions on their privacy and their personal and property rights. Indeed, it is not too much to say that of all the causes which led to the Revolution against the mother country, to which the colonies were bound by ties of blood and cherished traditions, nothing more excited the spirit of revolt than unreasonable searches and seizures made under color of law.

When the colonies acquired by force of arms the right to govern themselves, the people did not forget the galling oppressions to which they had...

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16 cases
  • Lansdowne v. State
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • February 29, 1980
    ...v. United States, 60 F.2d 481, 481 (3d Cir. 1932); Nanfito v. United States, 20 F.2d 376, 378 (8th Cir. 1927); Schenks v. United States, 55 App.D.C. 84, 86, 2 F.2d 185, 187 (1924). See Payne v. State, 233 Ga. 294, 311, 210 S.E.2d 775, 787 (1974); State v. Staley, 37 N.C.App. 18, 20, 245 S.E......
  • State v. Arregui
    • United States
    • Idaho Supreme Court
    • March 26, 1927
    ...States (C. C. A.), 284 F. 208.) Affidavits which go no further than to allege conclusions of law or of fact are insufficient. ( Schencks v. United States, supra; Abraham v. Commonwealth, 202 Ky. 491, 260 S.W. Hannan v. State (Okla. Cr.), 29 Okla. Crim. 203, 233 P. 249.) This affidavit was w......
  • U.S. v. Lawson
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit
    • March 31, 1975
    ...481; Egan v. United States, 52 App. D.C. 384, 287 F. 958; Mundy v. United States, 85 U.S.App.D.C. 120, 176 F.2d 32; Schencks v. United States, 55 App.D.C. 84, 2 F.2d 185. But, a proper definition of the term does not depend upon the observance of a ritual or the use of precise words found i......
  • United States v. Whiting
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • December 19, 1962
    ...these motions should have been granted because the search warrant was issued without probable cause. They rely on Schencks v. United States, 55 App.D.C. 84, 2 F.2d 185 (1924), where it was said that an officer of the law may not use information furnished him as a basis for a search and seiz......
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1 books & journal articles
  • The Broken Fourth Amendment Oath.
    • United States
    • Stanford Law Review Vol. 74 No. 3, March 2022
    • March 1, 2022
    ...v. United States, 18 F.2d 85, 88 (8th Cir. 1927); Kohler v. United States, 9 F.2d 23, 25 (9th Cir. 1925); Schencks v. United States, 2 F.2d 185, 186-87 (D.C. Cir. 1924). Federal district courts came to the same conclusion and generally required personal knowledge. See, e.g., United States v......

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