TRUPIANO V. UNITED STATES, 334 U. S. 699 (1948)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Trupiano v. United States, 334 U.S. 699 (1948)

Trupiano v. United States

No. 427

Argued March 9,1948

Decided June 14, 1948

334 U.S. 699


Federal agents who had known for at least three weeks that a building on a farm was being used for illicit distilling made a night-time raid thereon without a warrant of arrest or a search warrant. They were led onto the farm and to the building by the owner, who was an informer. Through an open door, they saw one of the petitioners engaged in illicit distilling. An agent entered, arrested him, and seized the contraband apparatus and material. The other petitioners were arrested later. Charged with violations of federal revenue laws, they moved to suppress the evidence as having been obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Federal Constitution.


1. The arrest was lawful as an arrest of a person who was committing a felony in the discernible presence of a law enforcement officer at a place where the officer was lawfully present. Pp. 334 U. S. 700-705.

(a) The absence of a warrant of arrest, even though there was sufficient time to obtain one, does not invalidate an arrest under these circumstances. P. 334 U. S. 705.

2. The seizure of the contraband property was in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and not justified as incident to the lawful arrest. Pp. 334 U. S. 705-710.

(a) In the circumstances of this case, there was no excuse for failure to obtain a search warrant. Pp. 334 U. S. 705-706, 334 U. S. 708.

(b) The fact that the property actually seized was contraband, which doubtless would have been described in a warrant had one issued, does not legalize the seizure. P. 334 U. S. 707.

(c) The proximity of the contraband property to the arrested person at the moment of his arrest was a fortuitous circumstance inadequate to legalize the seizure. Pp. 334 U. S. 707-708.

(d) The presence or absence of an arrestee at the exact time and place of a foreseeable and anticipated seizure does not determine the validity of that seizure if it occurs without a warrant. P. 334 U. S. 708.

(e) The mere fact that there is a valid arrest does not ipso facto legalize a search or seizure without a warrant. P. 334 U. S. 708.

Page 334 U. S. 700

(f) Harris v. United States, 331 U. S. 145, distinguished; Taylor v. United States, 286 U. S. 1, followed. Pp. 334 U. S. 708-709.

3. Petitioners were entitled to have the unlawfully seized property suppressed as evidence; but, since the property was contraband, they were not entitled to have it returned to them. P. 334 U. S. 710.

163 F.2d 828, reversed.

Petitioners, charged with violations of federal revenue laws, moved to suppress certain evidence alleged to have been illegally obtained. An order of the District Court denying the motion, 70 F.Supp. 764, was affirmed by the Circuit Court of Appeals, 163 F.2d 828. This Court granted certiorari. 332 U.S. 841. Reversed, p. 334 U. S. 710.

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