HARRIS V. UNITED STATES, 331 U. S. 145 (1947)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Harris v. United States, 331 U.S. 145 (1947)

Harris v. United States

No. 34

Argued December 12, 13, 1946

Decided May 5, 1947

331 U.S. 145


1. Upon warrants charging violations of the Mail Fraud Statute and the National Stolen Property Act, five federal agents arrested an accused in the living room of an apartment which was in his exclusive possession. Without a search warrant, they searched the apartment (living room, bedroom, kitchen and bath) intensively for five hours, for two canceled checks and any other means by which the crimes charged might have been committed. Beneath some clothes in a bedroom bureau drawer, they discovered a sealed envelope marked "personal papers" of the accused. This was torn open and found to contain several draft cards which were property of the United States and the possession of which was a federal offense. Upon the evidence thus obtained, the accused was convicted of violations of the Selective Training & Service Act of 1940 and § 48 of the Criminal Code.

Held: The evidence was not obtained in violation of the provision of the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable searches and seizures, nor did its use violate the privilege of the accused against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment. Pp. 331 U. S. 150-155.

2. A search incidental to an arrest may, under appropriate circumstances, extend beyond the person of the one arrested to the premises under his immediate control. P. 331 U. S. 151.

3. A search incidental to an arrest, which is otherwise reasonable, is not rendered invalid by the fact that the place searched is a dwelling, rather than a place of business. P. 331 U. S. 151.

4. The search in this case was not rendered invalid by the fact that it extended beyond the room in which the accused was arrested. P. 331 U. S. 152.

5. The search in this case was not more intensive than was reasonably demanded by the circumstances. Pp. 331 U. S. 152-153.

6. The objects sought and those actually seized in this case were properly subject to seizure. P. 331 U. S. 154.

7. It is of no significance in this case that the draft cards which were seized were unrelated to the crimes for which the accused was arrested. P. 331 U. S. 154.

Page 331 U. S. 146

8. Since possession of the draft cards by the accused was a serious and continuing offense against federal laws, upon discovery of the cards, a crime was being committed in the very presence of the agents conducting the search. Pp. 331 U. S. 154-155.

9. If entry upon the premises be authorized and the search which follows be valid, there is nothing in the Fourth Amendment which inhibits the seizure by law enforcement agents of government property the possession of which is a crime, even though the officers are not aware that such property is on the premises when the search is initiated. P. 331 U. S. 155.

10. That abuses sometimes occur is no basis for giving sinister coloration to procedures which are basically reasonable. P. 331 U. S. 155.

151 F.2d 837, affirmed.

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