United States v. Callahan, 4-64-Cr-67

CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of Minnesota
Citation256 F. Supp. 739
Docket NumberNo. 4-64-Cr-67,68.,4-64-Cr-67
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff, v. Dennis Harley CALLAHAN and Kenneth James Callahan, Defendants.
Decision Date14 April 1964


Miles W. Lord, U. S. Atty., and Sidney P. Abramson, Asst. U. S. Atty., Minneapolis, Minn., for the United States of America.

J. Derck Amerman, Prescott, & Amerman, New Brighton, Minn., for defendants.


DEVITT, Chief Judge.

The defendants are charged with violation of § 487, Title 18 U.S.C.A., for unlawful possession of dies and molds used in counterfeiting United States coinage. This expression is occasioned by a motion for the suppression of evidence obtained from the defendants' automobile on the ground that it was obtained as a result of an unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The essential facts are not in dispute and are as follows: During the early morning hours of Sunday, January 5, 1964, the Minneapolis Police Department received a phone call from an unknown informant that in a certain automobile parked in a downtown Minneapolis parking lot there were molds and other objects apparently used for the counterfeiting of U. S. coins. The informant advised the police that he had been prowling cars in the vicinity and had broken into the vehicle in question. The informer sought immunity from the police, but he was apparently promised nothing. Prior to this time the informer was unknown to the Minneapolis police, and admittedly bore no relationship or special badge of reliability as an informer.

Thereafter two police detectives met the informer and went to the lot where the vehicle in question was parked. The detectives checked the license plates on the vehicle (a 1963 Pontiac station wagon) and found that they had been issued to a different vehicle, leading to the conclusion that the car may have been stolen. The detectives called for assistance and at about 3:15 A.M. commenced a surveillance of the vehicle. Five police officers approached the vehicle. One of the detectives testified that with the aid of a flashlight he could see through the closed windows of the vehicle, and was able to observe white plaster molds for United States coins located on the floor behind the front seat. This detective testified that he could distinguish the imprint on the molds by this observation. The car door was unlocked. The detectives entered the vehicle and took one plaster mold.

These same five officers maintained a surveillance of the vehicle until they were relieved at 7:00 A.M. by three other police officers and two United States Secret Service Agents. At about 1:30 P.M. the defendants approached the vehicle and were apprehended while placing clothing into the back end. After the defendants were arrested a search of the vehicle was conducted, and numerous counterfeit coins, more than 100 pieces of plaster molds of various denominations, and various pieces of equipment usable as counterfeiting paraphernalia were seized.

No search warrant was obtained for the search of the vehicle by either the Minneapolis police officers or the federal agents.

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, * * *." It is the defendants' contention that this right was violated when the police officers, without a warrant and allegedly without probable cause, searched and seized from their automobile the evidence in question.

It is established that whether evidence obtained by state officers and sought to be used against a defendant in a federal prosecution was obtained by an unreasonable search and seizure is to be judged as if the search and seizure had been made by federal officers. Elkins v. United States, 364 U.S. 206, 80 S.Ct. 1437, 4 L.Ed.2d 1669 (1960). If these actions constitute an illegal search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment then the motion to suppress must be sustained.1

The Fourth Amendment is in the nature of a guarantee of privacy and may be invoked by any citizen, whether guilty or innocent. Go-Bart Importing Co. v. United States, 282 U.S. 344, 357, 51 S.Ct. 153, 75 L.Ed. 374 (1931). However, it is clear that the Fourth Amendment does not forbid all searches and seizures but only such as are unreasonable, and "the propriety of the seizure of property without a search warrant is dependent upon the facts and circumstances existing at and prior to the time of seizure and known to the seizing officers." Lawson v. United States, 254 F. 2d 706, 708 (8th Cir. 1958).

It is well established that an automobile comes within the purview of the Fourth Amendment and cannot be unreasonably searched.2 However, unlike a dwelling house or other structure, Jones v. United States, 357 U.S. 493, 78 S.Ct. 1253, 2 L.Ed.2d 1514 (1958),3 a search of an automobile without a warrant and not incident to a lawful arrest may be sustained if probable cause for the search exists. Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132, 45 S.Ct. 280, 69 L. Ed. 543, 39 A.L.R. 790 (1925). See Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160, 69 S.Ct. 1302, 93 L.Ed. 1879 (1949); Husty v. United States, 282 U.S. 694, 51 S.Ct. 240, 75 L.Ed. 629, 74 A.L.R. 1407 (1931).

This distinction was recognized in a recent Supreme Court decision, Justice Black delivering the unanimous opinion of the Court:

Common sense dictates, of course, that questions involving searches of motor cars or other things readily moved cannot be treated as identical to questions arising out of searches of fixed structures like houses. For this reason, what may be an unreasonable search of a house may be reasonable in the case of a motor car. See Carroll v. United States, supra, 267 U.S., at 153, 45 S.Ct. at 285, 69 L.Ed. 543. But even in the case of motor cars, the test still is, was the search unreasonable. Therefore we must inquire whether the facts of this case are such as to fall within any of the exceptions to the constitutional rule that a search warrant must be had before a search may be made. Preston v. United States, 376 U.S. 364, 84 S.Ct. 881, 11 L.Ed.2d 777 (1964).

The defendants would urge that the Carroll case should be limited to those cases where the vehicle is in transit on a public road or highway, and that it should not be applied to a parked vehicle where there is no immediate danger of removal of the contraband. This argument has been rejected by good authority. United States v. Haley, 321 F.2d 956, 958 (6th Cir. 1963); Armada v. United States, 319 F.2d 793 (5th Cir. 1963); United States v. Walker, 307 F. 2d 250 (4th Cir. 1962). In the Walker case the Court stated at p. 252:

However, this argument ignores the basic reason for the Carroll doctrine — that a vehicle by its very nature can be quickly moved out of the locality or jurisdiction in which the warrant might be sought and law enforcement thereby frustrated. This very practical consideration is present whether the vehicle is in transit on the open road or parked.

The primary question that is raised and argued in the briefs is whether there was probable cause for the search and seizure. The defendants urge that the word of the prowler-turned-informer is not sufficiently reliable information to create probable cause for a search and seizure without a search warrant,4 and hence argue that the facts of this case do not fall within the Carroll exception to the constitutional rule that a search warrant must be obtained before a search may be made. However, this contention seems to ignore the fact that even though the information received from the informer may not have created probable cause for an exploratory search, or perhaps even for a search warrant, it certainly created probable cause for the subsequent investigation which the officers undertook. In the words of the Supreme Court in Scher v. United States, 305 U.S. 251, 254, 59 S.Ct. 174, 176, 83 L.Ed. 151 (1938):

In the circumstances the source of the information which caused him to be observed was unimportant to petitioner's defense. The legality of the officers' action does not depend upon the credibility of something told but upon what they saw and heard — what took place in their presence.

After receiving this tip the officers first drove past the parked vehicle, apparently without stopping, and obtained the license number. Upon checking this information the officers learned that the license plates on the vehicle had been issued to a different vehicle. The officers apparently concluded that they would need additional assistance and immediately requested it from headquarters via their car radio. It is significant to note that this action was taken before any officer approached the vehicle and had an opportunity to see the counterfeit molds through the window. From the time the officers learned the license plates were not issued to the vehicle there was a known violation of Minnesota law,5 and the officers had probable cause to think that the car had been stolen.6 It would seem that they would be justified in searching the car on this basis when they first came on the scene. Cf. Preston v. United States, 376 U.S. 364, 84 S.Ct. 881 (1964) (dictum). However, this position has not been stringently urged by the government, and in any event need not be relied on to support the action taken by the police officers.

After the additional assistance arrived the officers approached the vehicle and looked into it with the aid of their flashlights. From this observation at least one of the officers testified that he could distinguish the imprint of a counterfeit coin, specifically a silver dollar, on the blocks lying uncovered on the back floor.7 It is this action which the defendants urge constituted an unreasonable search in violation of their right of privacy under the ...

To continue reading

Request your trial
15 cases
  • Cobb v. Wyrick, Civ. A. No. 73CV49-W-1-3.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Western District of Missouri
    • June 20, 1974
    ...62 F.2d 892, 895 (8th Cir. 1933); United States v. Wright, 146 U.S.App.D.C. 126, 449 F.2d 1355 (1971); United States v. Callahan, 256 F.Supp. 739, 745 (D.Minn. 4 The transcript of the trial record discloses that during cross-examination, Deputy Sheriff Dutton testified without contradiction......
  • Marshall v. United States, 26037.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • January 22, 1970
    ...is not a search to observe what is open and patent either in daylight or in artificial light."); United States v. Callahan, D.Minn.1964, 256 F.Supp. 739, 745 ("It does not constitute a search to observe that which occurs openly in a public place and which is exposed to visual observation, a......
  • Lathers v. United States, 24226.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • May 23, 1968
    ...4 Cir. 1964, 331 F.2d 332, 340 (at fn. 8), cert. den., 379 U.S. 820, 85 S.Ct. 39, 13 LEd.2d 31; United States v. Callahan, D. Minn.1964, 256 F.Supp. 739, 742 (at 1). Cf. Paige v. Potts, 5 Cir. 1965, 354 F.2d 212, 214 (at 2), reviewing a state conviction. Numerous other opinions, including a......
  • State v. Andrus, 48363
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Louisiana
    • June 5, 1967
    ...its discovery violated no constitutional right [250 La. 780] of privacy of the defendants. United States v. Callahan (D.C.Minn.1964), 256 F.Supp. 739; Commonwealth v. Anderson, 208 Pa.Super. 323, 222 A.2d 495 (1966); State v. Smith (Fla.D.C. of App.1966), 193 So.2d 23; McCollum v. State (Mi......
  • 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