Segurola v. United States, 195

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation72 L.Ed. 186,275 U.S. 106,48 S.Ct. 77
Docket NumberNo. 195,195
Decision Date21 November 1927

275 U.S. 106
48 S.Ct. 77
72 L.Ed. 186



No. 195.
Argued Oct. 12, 1927.
Decided Nov. 21, 1927.

Page 107

Mr. E. B. Wilcox, of San Juan, Porto Rico, for petitioner.

The Attorney General and Mr. W. J. Donovan, Asst. Atty. Gen., for the United States.

Mr. Chief Justice TAFT delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a review of a sentence against the petitioners upon a criminal information, filed in the District Court of the United States for Porto Rico, charging in the first count possession, and in the second count transportation, of intoxicating liquors in violation of the National Prohibition Act (27 USCA). The conviction on the possession count was set aside by the Circuit Court of Appeals, so that only the second count is here involved. Upon arraignment, petitioners waived a reading of the information and pleaded not guilty. Their counsel thereupon requested that they be furnished with a copy of the information free of charge. The request was denied by the court and an exception noted, the trial court stating that the defendants and their counsel were free to examine the information and to make copies themselves, or have the clerk make them on payment of his fee.

At the trial, Alfonso Ceballos, chief of police at Carolina, Porto Rico, testified for the prosecution that, having received a confidential telephone meassage that Segurola was driving a Buick automobile with a load of liquor from

Page 108

Luquillo to Loiza, he procured one Ismael Colon to drive him in a Ford car out to a point on the road where he awaited the appearance of the Buick machine; that when that car appeared he tried to intercept it by obstructing the road with the Ford, but Segurola operated his Buick so as to force the Ford aside, by threat of a collision, and went by at high speed; that the officer was in uniform, which Segurola must have observed; that he followed in the Ford into Carolina, where, owing to obstacles encountered by the Buick, he managed to get around in front of it and, when Segurola saw his way blocked by the Ford, he stopped the Buick, put it in reverse, and crashed into an electric wire post; that Ceballos then arrested Segurola, as well as Santiago, who was sitting beside him, and that a search by Ceballos of the rear compartment of the Buick, which was a roadster, disclosed a number of sacks containing bottles of whisky, brandy, and gin.

In the cross-examination, Ceballos was asked who gave him the information by telephone. Counsel for the government objected that 'they are the secrets of the police force, which should not be stated in a court of justice, and the stating of the source of such information would be against public policy.' The objection was sustained and an exception noted. Evidence was given of the alcoholic content of the liquor and the identity of that examined with that seized. When the liquor was offered and received in evidence, it was objected to on the ground that it had not been properly identified, but the objection was overruled and the liquor admitted. Thereafter, counsel for the defendants moved to suppress the liquor, as evidence, on the ground that the search was without a warrant and did not appear to have been made upon probable cause, and, also, for the reason that upon the issue of probable cause defendants were not permitted to cross-examine the seizing officer as to the person from whom he

Page 109

received by telephone the information which induced him to go to look for the Buick car. The motion was overruled. No objection was ever made to the evidence of the officers and others that liquor was found in the car and no evidence to dispute these facts was offered by the defense. At the close of the trial the jury found the defendants guilty as charged and the court sentenced them to pay fines.

The case was carried upon writ of error to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. 16 F. (2d) 563. That court affirmed the judgment, holding that the refusal to furnish a copy of the information without payment of a fee to the clerk was right and, even if erroneous, was, under the circumstances, a harmless error; that the...

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