UNITED STATES V. LEFKOWITZ, 285 U. S. 452 (1932)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Lefkowitz, 285 U.S. 452 (1932)

United States v. Lefkowitz

No. 466

Argued February 19, 23, 1932

Decided April 11, 1932

285 U.S. 452


1. A complaint charged that the defendants conspired to sell, possess, transport, furnish, deliver and take orders for intoxicating liquors, contrary to the National Prohibition Act, and that, as part of the conspiracy, they were to use a designated room in soliciting orders for the liquor, having it delivered by express companies or other carriers, collecting for it and sharing in the proceeds. Under a warrant of arrest issued upon the complaint, the defendants were arrested in the room designated, which was used as an office and was not alleged to be a place where liquor was, or ever had been, manufactured, sold, kept or bartered, or which contained fixtures or other things essential or intended to be used for the sale of liquors to be consumed on the premises or otherwise. Upon making the arrests, the officers explored all desks, cabinets, waste baskets, etc., for evidence of guilt and found various books, papers and other things intended to be used in soliciting orders for liquor, which they took away.


(1) The mere soliciting of orders from the room, in connection with the other uses alleged in the complaint, was not sufficient to constitute maintenance of a nuisance therein. P. 285 U. S. 462.

(2) There was no ground for saying that the accused were arrested while committing the crime of conspiracy or nuisance. P. 285 U. S. 463.

(3) The search was not justifiable as an incident of the arrests. P. 285 U. S. 463.

2. The Fourth Amendment forbids every search that is unreasonable, and is construed liberally to safeguard the right of privacy. P. 285 U. S. 464.

Page 285 U. S. 453

3. A search for and seizure of an individual's papers, solely that they may be used as evidence to convict him of crime, is unconstitutional, even when done under a search warrant issued upon ample evidence and precisely describing the things to be taken and their whereabouts. P. 285 U. S. 464.

4. The decisions of this Court distinguish searches of one's house, office, papers, or effects merely to get evidence to convict him of crime from searches such as those made to find stolen goods for return to the owner, to take property that has been forfeited to the Government, to discover property concealed to avoid payment of duties for which it is liable, and from searches such as those made for the seizure of counterfeit coins, burglars' tools, gambling paraphernalia and illicit liquor in order to prevent the commission of crime. P. 285 U. S. 465.

5. The Constitution is to be construed with regard to the principles upon which it was established. The direct operation or literal meaning of the words used do not measure the purpose or scope of its provisions. P. 285 U. S. 467.

52 F.2d 52, affirmed.

Certiorari, 284 U.S. 612, to review a reversal of an order of the District Court, 47 F.2d 921, which denied a motion for the suppression, as evidence, of papers, etc., seized at the time of serving a warrant of arrest.

Page 285 U. S. 457

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