CADY V. DOMBROWSKI, 413 U. S. 433 (1973)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Cady v. Dombrowski, 413 U.S. 433 (1973)

Cady v. Dombrowski

No. 72-586

Argued March 21, 1973

Decided June 21, 1973

413 U.S. 433


Respondent had a one-car accident near a small Wisconsin town, while driving a rented Ford. The police had the car towed to a garage seven miles from the police station, where it was left unguarded outside. Respondent was arrested for drunken driving. Early the next day, an officer, looking for a service revolver which respondent (who had identified himself as a Chicago policeman) was thought to possess, made a warrantless search of the car and found in the trunk several items, some bloodied, which he removed. Later, on receipt of additional information emanating from respondent, a blood-stained body was located on respondent's brother's farm in a nearby county. Thereafter, through the windows of a disabled Dodge which respondent had left on the farm before renting the Ford, an officer observed other bloodied items. Following issuance of a search warrant, materials were taken from the Dodge, two of which (a sock and floor mat) were not listed in the return on the warrant among the items seized. Respondent's trial for murder, at which items seized from the cars were introduced in evidence, resulted in conviction which was upheld on appeal. In this habeas corpus action, the Court of Appeals reversed the District Court and held that certain evidence at the trial had been unconstitutionally seized.


1. The warrantless search of the Ford did not violate the Fourth Amendment as made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth. The search was not unreasonable, since the police had exercised a form of custody of the car, which constituted a hazard on the highway, and the disposition of which by respondent was precluded by his intoxicated and later comatose condition; and the revolver search was standard police procedure to protect the public from a weapon's possibly falling into improper hands. Preston v. United States, 376 U. S. 364, distinguished; Harris v. United States, 390 U. S. 234, followed. Pp. 413 U. S. 439-448.

2. The seizure of the sock and floor mat from the Dodge was not invalid, since the Dodge, the item "particularly described," was the subject of a proper search warrant. It is not constitutionally significant that the sock and mat were not listed in the

Page 413 U. S. 434

warrant's return, which (contrary to the assumption of the Court of Appeals) was not filed prior to the search, and the warrant was thus validly outstanding at the time the articles were discovered. Pp. 413 U. S. 448-450.

471 F.2d 280, reversed.

REHNQUIST, J., wrote the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and WHITE, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which DOUGLAS, STEWART, and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 413 U. S. 450.

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