BRINEGAR V. UNITED STATES, 338 U. S. 160 (1949)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160 (1949)

Brinegar v. United States

No. 12

Argued October 18-19, 1948

Decided June 27, 1949

338 U.S. 160


Petitioner was convicted in a federal district court for a violation of the Liquor Enforcement Act of 1936, on charges of transporting intoxicating liquor into Oklahoma contrary to the laws of that State. He challenged the validity of his conviction because of the use in evidence against him of liquor seized in a search of his automobile without a warrant and allegedly in violation of the Fourth Amendment. At the hearing on petitioner's motion to suppress this evidence, it appeared that one of the federal agents who made the search and seizure had arrested petitioner five months previously for illegally transporting liquor; that he had twice seen petitioner loading liquor into a car or truck in Missouri, where the sale of liquor was legal, and that he knew petitioner had a reputation for hauling liquor. This officer, accompanied by another, recognized petitioner and his car, which appeared to be heavily loaded, going west in Oklahoma not far from the Missouri line. They gave chase, overtook petitioner, and forced his car to the side of the road. Upon interrogation, petitioner admitted that he had twelve cases of liquor in his car, whereupon the officers searched the car, seized the liquor and arrested petitioner.


1. The facts taking place before petitioner made the incriminating statements were sufficient to show probable cause for the search, and the evidence seized was admissible against petitioner at the trial. Carroll v. United States, 267 U. S. 132, followed. Pp. 338 U. S. 165-171.

2. The officer's knowledge that petitioner was engaging in illicit liquor-running was not based wholly or largely on surmise or hearsay; the facts derived from his personal observation were sufficient in themselves, without the hearsay concerning general reputation, to sustain his conclusion concerning the illegal character of petitioner's operations. P. 338 U. S. 172.

3. It was not improper to admit as evidence on the issue of probable cause the fact that the officer had arrested the petitioner several months before for illegal transportation of liquor, although the identical evidence was properly excluded at the trial on the issue of guilt. Pp. 338 U. S. 172-174.

Page 338 U. S. 161

4. Probable cause exists where the facts and circumstances within the officers' knowledge, and of which they have reasonably trustworthy information, are sufficient in themselves to warrant a belief by a man of reasonable caution that a crime is being committed. Pp. 338 U. S. 175-176.

165 F.2d 512, affirmed.

Petitioner was convicted in the federal district court for a violation of the Liquor Enforcement Act. The Court of Appeals affirmed. 165 F.2d 512. This Court granted certiorari. 333 U.S. 841. Affirmed, p. 338 U. S. 178.

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