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Amos v. United States

U.S.
Feb 28, 1921
255 U.S. 313 (1921)

Summary

holding that wife's consent to search was not voluntary when agents told her that they had come to search the premises

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Lattimore

Opinion

ERROR TO THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA.

No. 114.

Argued December 13, 1920. Decided February 28, 1921.

1. When it is clear and undisputed that property used in evidence against a defendant on a criminal trial was procured by the Government through an unconstitutional search and seizure in his home, his petition for its return is not too late when made immediately after the jury was sworn, and his motion to exclude the property, and testimony concerning it, from evidence should not be denied as inviting a collateral issue. P. 316. 2. The act of a man's wife in allowing government officers to enter his home without a warrant upon their demand for admission for the purpose of making a search is held not to be a waiver of his constitutional privilege against unreasonable search and seizure, even assuming that a wife may waive her husband's right in that regard. P. 317. Reversed.

THE case is stated in the opinion.

Mr. H.H. Obear, with whom Mr. R. Dozier Lee and Mr. Charles A. Douglas were on the brief, for plaintiff in error.

Mr. W.C. Herron, with whom The Solicitor General was on the brief, for the United States.


The plaintiff in error, whom we shall designate defendant as he was in the court below, was tried on an indictment containing six counts. He was found not guilty on the first four counts, but guilty on the fifth, which charged him with having removed whisky on which the revenue tax had not been paid to a place other than a Government warehouse, and also on the sixth, which charged him with having concealed whisky on which the tax required by law had not been paid.

After the jury was sworn, but before any evidence was offered, the defendant presented to the court a petition, duly sworn to by him, praying that there be returned to him described private property of his, which it was averred the District Attorney intended to use in evidence at the trial and which had been seized by P.J. Coleman and C.A. Rector, officers of the Government, in a search of defendant's house and store "within his curtilage," made unlawfully and without warrant of any kind, in violation of his rights under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.

Upon reading of this petition and hearing of the application it was denied, and, exception being noted, the trial proceeded.

Coleman and Rector were called as witnesses by the Government and testified: that as deputy collectors of Internal Revenue, they went to defendant's home and, not finding him there, but finding a woman who said she was his wife, told her that they were revenue officers and had come to search the premises "for violations of the revenue law"; that thereupon the woman opened the store and the witnesses entered, and in a barrel of peas found a bottle containing not quite a half-pint of illicitly distilled whisky, which they called "blockade whisky"; and that they then went into the home of defendant and on searching found two bottles under the quilt on the bed, one of which contained a full quart, and the other a little over a quart of illicitly distilled whisky. The Government introduced in evidence a pint bottle containing whisky, which the witness Coleman stated "was not one of the bottles found by him; but that the whisky contained in the same was poured out of one of the two bottles that he had found in the defendant's house on the bed under the quilt, as above stated." On cross-examination both witnesses testified that they did not have any warrant for the arrest of the defendant, nor any search warrant to search his house, and that the search was made during the daytime, in the absence of the defendant, who did not appear on the scene until after the search had been made.

After these two Government witnesses had described how the search was made of defendant's home without warrant either to arrest him or to search his premises, a motion by counsel to strike out their testimony was denied and exception noted.

This statement shows that the trial court denied the petition of the defendant for a return of his property, seized in the search of his home by Government agents without warrant of any kind, in plain violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, as they have been interpreted and applied by this court in Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616, in Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383, and in Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States, 251 U.S. 385; and also denied his motion to exclude such property and the testimony relating thereto given by the Government agents after both were introduced in evidence against him, when he was on trial for a crime as to which they constituted relevant and material evidence, if competent.

The answer of the Government to the claim that the trial court erred in the two rulings we have described is, that the petition for the return of defendant's property was properly denied because it came too late when presented after the jury was empaneled and the trial, to that extent, commenced, and that the denial of the motion to exclude the property and the testimony of the Government agents relating thereto, after the manner of the search of defendant's home had been described, was justified by the rule that in the progress of the trial of criminal cases courts will not stop to frame a collateral issue to inquire whether evidence offered, otherwise competent, was lawfully or unlawfully obtained.

Plainly the questions thus presented for decision are ruled by the conclusions this day announced in No. 250, Gouled v. United States, ante, 298.

There is nothing in the record to indicate that the allegations of the petition for the return of the property, sworn to by the defendant, were in any respect questioned or denied, and the report of the examination and appropriate cross-examination of the Government's witnesses, called to make out its case, shows clearly the unconstitutional character of the seizure by which the property which it introduced was obtained. The facts essential to the disposition of the motion were not and could not be denied; they were literally thrust upon the attention of the court by the Government itself. The petition should have been granted, but it having been denied the motion should have been sustained.

The contention that the constitutional rights of defendant were waived when his wife admitted to his home the Government officers, who came, without warrant, demanding admission to make search of it under Government authority, cannot be entertained. We need not consider whether it is possible for a wife, in the absence of her husband, thus to waive his constitutional rights, for it is perfectly clear that under the implied coercion here presented, no such waiver was intended or effected.

It results that the judgment of the District Court must be reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion.

Reversed.


Summaries of

Amos v. United States

U.S.
Feb 28, 1921
255 U.S. 313 (1921)

holding that wife's consent to search was not voluntary when agents told her that they had come to search the premises

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Lattimore

holding that consent was coerced when officers told defendant's wife they came to search the premises and she allowed them to enter

Summary of this case from Wyche v. State

In Amos v. United States, 255 U.S. 313, the defendant was convicted of concealing whiskey on which the tax had not been paid. At the trial he presented a petition asking that private property seized in a search of his house and store "within his curtilage," without warrant should be returned.

Summary of this case from Olmstead v. United States

In Amos v. United States, 255 U.S. 313, it was held that where concealed liquor was found by government officers without a search warrant in the home of the defendant, in his absence, and after a demand made upon his wife, it was inadmissible as evidence against the defendant, because acquired by an unreasonable seizure.

Summary of this case from Carroll v. United States

In Amos, the government argued the consent issue, but the opinion does not indicate whether the trial court made findings on the issue.

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Winsor

In Amos v. United States, 1921, 255 U.S. 313, 317, 41 S.Ct. 266, 65 L.Ed. 654, the Supreme Court expressly left open the question.

Summary of this case from Roberts v. United States

In Amos v. United States, 255 U.S. 313, 41 S. Ct. 266, 65 L. Ed. 654, the Supreme Court ordered the return of intoxicating liquor illegally seized; but it is to be noted that the case was not decided under the Prohibition Act (27 USCA), and there was apparently no evidence before the court other than that resulting from the illegal seizure to show that the possession of the liquor constituted a crime.

Summary of this case from United States v. Goodhues

In Amos v. United States, 255 U.S. 313, 317, 41 S. Ct. 266, 65 L. Ed. 654, the Supreme Court found it unnecessary to consider whether it is possible for a wife, in the absence of her husband, to waive his constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment, because the court found implied coercion on the part of the agents affecting the wife.

Summary of this case from United States v. Ruffner

In Amos v. United States, 255 U.S. 313, 41 S. Ct. 266, 65 L. Ed. 654, a search was held to be unreasonable and in violation of the Fourth Amendment, where revenue agents, in the absence of Amos, without a search warrant entered his home and store after gaining admission by telling Amos's wife that they were revenue agents and had come to search the premises.

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Wainer

In Amos v. United States, 255 U.S. 313, 41 S. Ct. 266, 65 L. Ed. 654, it seems to be held that under such circumstances the liquor should be returned.

Summary of this case from United States v. Malt

In Amos v. United States, 255 U.S. 313, 41 S.Ct. 266, 65 L.Ed. 654, the court expressly avoided deciding whether a wife's consent could waive the rights of her husband.

Summary of this case from Burge v. State

In Amos v. United States, supra, two revenue officers went to defendant's home without either a search warrant or an arrest warrant.

Summary of this case from Dearing v. State of Indiana

In Amos v. United States, 255 U.S. 313, 65 L.Ed., 654, it was held that a wife did not waive the constitutional rights of her husband to be free from unreasonable search, when she admitted to his home officers who came, without warrant, demanding admission to make search under governmental authority.

Summary of this case from Clark v. State

In Amos v. U.S., 255 U.S. 313; 41 Sup. Ct., 266; 65 L.Ed., 654, a search of the defendant's house was made in the daytime by Federal Officers; they had neither arrest warrant nor search warrant; bottles of whiskey were found in the defendant's house.

Summary of this case from State v. Prescott

In Gouled v. United States some of the papers used in evidence had been taken from the premises of the defendant surreptitiously by one acting under directions of officers of the intelligence department of the army of the United States and others under search-warrants issued under authority of law and upon affidavits averring that there were in defendant's apartments certain papers relating to and used in the commission of a felony.

Summary of this case from People v. Mayen

In Amos v. United States (1920), 255 U.S. 313, 65 L.Ed. 654, 41 S.Ct. 266, in discussing the authority of a wife to consent to a search for evidence to be used against her husband, the court intimated that such consent would not validate the search.

Summary of this case from People v. Nunn

In Amos v. United States, 255 U.S. 313, 41 S.Ct. 266, 268, 65 L.Ed. 654, two federal officers went to the defendant's home without a warrant and, not finding him there, told his wife they were officers and had come to search the premises, whereupon she opened the door and the search was made.

Summary of this case from Elmore v. Commonwealth

In Amos v. United States, supra, government officers entered the defendant's home in his absence without a search warrant, and illegally seized certain property.

Summary of this case from Hantz v. State
Case details for

Amos v. United States

Case Details

Full title:AMOS v . UNITED STATES

Court:U.S.

Date published: Feb 28, 1921

Citations

255 U.S. 313 (1921)
41 S. Ct. 266

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