UNITED STATES V. DI RE, 332 U. S. 581 (1948)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Di Re, 332 U.S. 581 (1948)

United States v. Di Re

No. 61

Argued October 17, 1947

Decided January 5, 1948

332 U.S. 581


1. Respondent and an informer were in an automobile, the driver of which was suspected of selling counterfeit gasoline ration coupons. When approached by federal and New York state officers, the informer had counterfeit gasoline ration coupons in his hand and stated that he had obtained them from the driver. Without previous information implicating respondent, and without a warrant, the state officer arrested respondent and the driver, but did not search the car or state the charge on which respondent was arrested. At the police station, respondent was searched and counterfeit gasoline ration coupons were found on his person. On the evidence thus obtained, respondent was convicted of possession of counterfeit gasoline ration coupons in violation of § 301 of the Second War Powers Act.

Held: the search was unlawful, and the conviction cannot be sustained. Pp. 332 U. S. 583-595.

(a) Assuming, arguendo, that there was reasonable cause for search of the automobile as a vehicle believed to be carrying contraband, this did not justify a search of the person of respondent. Carroll v. United States, 267 U. S. 132, distinguished. Pp. 332 U. S. 583-587.

(b) It was not justified as incident to a lawful arrest, since the arrest was not lawful under New York law, which is controlling in this case. Pp. 332 U. S. 587-595.

2. By mere presence in a suspected automobile, a person does not lose immunities from search of his person to which he otherwise would be entitled. P. 332 U. S. 587.

3. In the absence of an applicable federal statute, the law of the state where an arrest without warrant takes place determines its validity. P. 332 U. S. 589.

4. No federal statute controls the validity of an arrest without warrant in a case such as this. Pp. 332 U. S. 590-591.

5. In the circumstances of this case, the mere presence of respondent in the car did not authorize an inference of participation in a conspiracy violative of § 37 of the Criminal Code. Pp. 332 U. S. 593-594.

6. Probable cause for arrest may not be inferred from the fact that the person arrested does not protest or resist arrest or assert his innocence to the arresting officer. It is the right of one placed under

Page 332 U. S. 582

arrest to submit to custody and reserve his defenses for the neutral tribunals erected by the law for the purpose of judging his case. Pp. 332 U. S. 594-595.

7. A search is not made legal by what it turns up; in law, it is good or bad when it starts, and does not change character from its success. P. 332 U. S. 595.

8. That law enforcement may be made more difficult is no justification for disregarding the constitutional prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. P. 332 U. S. 595.

159 F.2d 818 affirmed.

Respondent was convicted in a federal district court of possessing counterfeit gasoline ration coupons contrary to § 301 of the Second War Powers Act. The Circuit Court of Appeals reversed. 159 F.2d 818. This Court granted certiorari. 331 U.S. 800. Affirmed, p. 332 U. S. 595.

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