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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Rabinowitz, 339 U.S. 56 (1950)

United States v. Rabinowitz

No. 293

Argued January 11, 1950

Decided February 20, 1950

339 U.S. 56


1. Knowing that respondent had sold four forged postage stamps to a government agent and probably possessed many more in his one-room place of business which was open to the public, officers obtained a warrant for his arrest; but they did not obtain a search warrant. They arrested him in his place of business, searched the desk, safe, and file cabinets, and seized 573 forged stamps. He was indicted for possessing and concealing the stamps so seized and for selling the four that had been purchased. The seized stamps were admitted in evidence over his objection, and he was convicted on both counts.

Held: The search and seizure were incident to a lawful arrest, they were not unreasonable, and they did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Pp. 339 U. S. 57-66.

(a) What is a reasonable search is not to be determined by any fixed formula. The recurring questions of the reasonableness of searches must find resolution in the facts and circumstances of each case. P. 339 U. S. 63.

(b) Here, the search and seizure were reasonable because: (1) they were incident to a valid arrest; (2) the place of the search was a business room to which the public, including the officers, was invited; (3) the room was small, and under the immediate and complete control of respondent; (4) the search did not extend beyond the room used for unlawful purposes; and (5) the possession of the forged stamps was a crime. Pp. 339 U. S. 63-64.

2. Trupiano v. United States, 334 U. S. 699, overruled to the extent that it requires a search warrant solely upon the basis of the practicability of procuring it, rather than upon the reasonableness of the search after a lawful arrest. Pp. 339 U. S. 65-66.

176 F.2d 732, reversed.

Respondent was convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. (1946 ed.) §§ 265, 268. The Court of Appeals reversed. 176 F.2d 732. This Court granted certiorari. 338 U.S. 884. Reversed, p. 339 U. S. 66.

Page 339 U. S. 57

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