Kremen v. United States
353 U.S. 346 (1957)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Kremen v. United States, 353 U.S. 346 (1957)

Kremen v. United States

No. 162

Argued March 6, 1957

Decided May 13, 1957

353 U.S. 346

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

The three petitioners were arrested by federal officers, who had an arrest warrant for only one of them. Without search warrants, the officers searched the cabin where petitioners were found, seized the entire contents of the cabin, and removed them some 200 miles away for purposes of examination. Some of the evidence so seized was introduced at the trial of petitioners in a federal court, and petitioners were convicted of certain federal offenses.

Held: objections to the search and seizure were adequately raised and preserved; the search and seizure were illegal; and admission into evidence against each of the petitioners of some of the items seized in the cabin rendered the guilty verdicts illegal. Pp. 353 U. S. 346-348.

231 F.2d 155, reversed.

PER CURIAM.

Of petitioners' various contentions, we find the one relating to the validity of the search and seizure made by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation dispositive of this case, and we therefore need not consider the others.

The indictment charged the three petitioners with relieving, comforting, and assisting one Thompson, a fugitive from justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 3, and with conspiring to commit that offense in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. In addition, it charged petitioners Kremen and

Page 353 U. S. 347

Coleman with harboring Steinberg, also a fugitive from justice, and with conspiring to commit that offense. Petitioners were found guilty, and, on appeal, their convictions were sustained, one judge dissenting. 231 F.2d 155. Because of the unusual character of the search and seizure here involved, we granted certiorari without, however, limiting the writ. 352 U.S. 819.

Thompson and Steinberg had been fugitives from justice for about two years when agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation discovered them, in the company of Kremen, Coleman, and another at a secluded cabin near the village of Twain Harte, California. After keeping the cabin under surveillance for some 24 hours, the officers arrested the three petitioners and Thompson. Thompson and Steinberg were arrested outside the cabin, Kremen and Coleman inside. The agents possessed outstanding arrest warrants for Thompson and Steinberg, but none for Kremen and Coleman. These four individuals were searched, and documents found on their persons were seized. In addition, an exhaustive search of the cabin and a seizure of its entire contents were made shortly after the arrests. The agents possessed no search warrant. The property seized from the house was taken to the FBI office at San Francisco for further examination. A copy of the FBI's inventory of the property thus taken is printed in the appendix to this opinion, post, p. 349 [appendix omitted].

The majority of the Court are agreed that objections to the validity of the search and seizure were adequately raised and preserved. The seizure of the entire contents of the house and its removal some two hundred miles away to the FBI offices for the purpose of examination are beyond the sanction of any of our cases. While the evidence seized from the persons of the petitioners might have been legally admissible, the introduction against each of petitioners of some items seized in the

Page 353 U. S. 348

house in the manner aforesaid rendered the guilty verdicts illegal. The convictions must therefore be reversed with instructions to grant the petitioners a new trial.

Reversed.

MR. JUSTICE BURTON and MR. JUSTICE CLARK dissent, believing that the items of evidence offered and admitted into evidence were legally seized. They are of the opinion that the validity of a seizure is not to be tested by the quantity of items seized. Validity depends on the circumstances of the seizure as to each of the items that is offered into evidence. Furthermore, only a fragmentary part of the items listed by the Court as seized was admitted into evidence, and if any items were illegally seized, their effect should be governed by the rule of harmless error, since there was ample evidence of guilt otherwise.

MR. JUSTICE WHITTAKER took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

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