BOYD V. UNITED STATES, 116 U. S. 616 (1886)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616 (1886)

Boyd v. United States

Argued December 11, 14, 1886

Decided February 1, 1886

116 U.S. 616


The 6th section of the act of June 22, 1874, entitled "An act to amend the customs revenue laws," &c., which section authorizes a court of the United States, in revenue cases, on motion of the government attorney, to require the defendant or claimant to produce in court his private books, invoice and papers, or else the allegations of the attorney to be taken as confessed: Held, to be unconstitutional and void a applied to suits for penalties or to establish a forfeiture of the party's goods, as being repugnant to the Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution.

Where proceedings were in rem to establish a forfeiture of certain goods alleged to have been fraudulently imported without paying the duties thereon, pursuant to the 12th section of said act: Held, That an order of the court made under said 5th section, requiring the claimants of the goods to produce a certain invoice in court for the inspection of the government attorney, and to be offered in evidence by him, was an unconstitutional exercise of authority, and that the inspection of the invoice by the attorney, and its admission in evidence, were erroneous and unconstitutional proceedings.

It does not require actual entry upon premises and search for and seizure of papers to constitute an unreasonable search and seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment; a compulsory production of a party's private books and papers to be used against himself or his property in a criminal or penal proceeding, or for a forfeiture, is within the spirit and meaning of the Amendment.

It is equivalent to a compulsory production of papers to make the nonproduction of them a confession of the allegations which it is pretended they will prove.

A proceeding to forfeit a person's goods for an offence against the laws, though civil in form, and whether in rem or in personam, is a "criminal case" within the meaning of that part of the Fifth Amendment which declares that no person "shall be compelled, in any criminal case, to be a witness against himself."

The seizure or compulsory production of a man's private papers to be used in evidence against him is equivalent to compelling him to be a witness against himself, and, in a prosecution for a crime, penalty or forfeiture, is equally within the prohibition of the Fifth Amendment.

Both amendments relate to the personal security of the citizen. They nearly run into, and mutually throw light upon, each other. When the thing forbidden in the Fifth Amendment, namely, compelling a man to be a witness against himself, is the object of a search and seizure of his private papers, it is an "unreasonable search and seizure" within the Fourth Amendment.

Page 116 U. S. 617

Search and seizure af a man' private paper to be used in evidence for the purpose of convicting him of a crime, recovering a penalty, or of forfeiting his property is totally different from the search and seizure of stolen goods, dutiable articles on which the duties have not been paid, and the like, which rightfully belong to the custody of the law.

Constitutional provision for the security of person and property should be liberally construed.

This was an information against thirty-five cases of polished plate glass. The facts which make the case are stated in the opinion of the court. Judgment in favor of the United States. The claimants sued out this writ of error.

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