Gouled v. United States
255 U.S. 298 (1921)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Gouled v. United States, 255 U.S. 298 (1921)

Gouled v. United States

No. 250

Argued January 4, 1921

Decided February 28, 1921

255 U.S. 298

Syllabus

1. The Fourth and Fifth Amendments are to be liberally construed. P. 255 U. S. 303.

2. When a defendant in a criminal case first learns of the Government's possession of his document when it is offered against him on the trial, his objection that it was obtained by an unreasonable search and seizure should not be overruled as coming too late. P. 255 U. S. 305.

3. An unreasonable search and seizure, in the sense of the Fourth Amendment, does not necessarily involve the employment of force or coercion, but is committed when a representative of any branch or subdivision of the Government, by stealth, through social acquaintance, or in the guise of a business call, gains entrance to the house or office of a person suspected of crime, whether in the presence or absence of the owner, and, in the owner's absence, searches for and abstracts his papers without his knowledge or consent. P. 255 U. S. 305.

4. The admission of a paper so obtained in evidence against and over the objection of the owner when indicted for crime compels him to be a witness against himself, in violation of the Fifth Amendment. P. 255 U. S. 306.

5. The Fourth Amendment permits of searches and seizures under

Page 255 U. S. 299

valid search warrants when justified by an interest of the public, or of the complainant, in the property to be seized, or in its possession, or when a lawful exercise of police power renders its possession by the accused unlawful and provides for its seizure; and papers, as such, are not immune from such search and seizure. P. 255 U. S. 308.

6. But papers of no pecuniary value in themselves, which are evidence of criminal fraud against their owner, and are of interest to and are sought by the Government for use as evidence merely, and not because they have been or may be used to defraud it, as an executed contract might be, cannot constitutionally be searched for and seized in their owner's house or office by resort to a search warrant. P. 255 U. S. 310.

7. Papers lawfully obtained under a valid search warrant may be used as evidence by the Government in prosecuting a person for a different offense than that charged against him in the affidavit upon which the search warrant was issued. P. 255 U. S. 311.

8. Where, in the progress of a criminal trial, it becomes probable that there has been an unconstitutional seizure of papers of the accused, it is the duty of the trial court to entertain an objection to their admission in evidence against him or a motion for their exclusion, and to decide the question as then presented, even where a motion to return the papers has been denied before trial and by another judge. P. 255 U. S. 312.

The case is stated in the opinion.

Page 255 U. S. 302

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