MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.
Petitioner stands convicted of unlawfully possessing three cartons of radios valued at more than $100 which had been stolen from an interstate shipment. See 18 U. S. C. § 659. The issue in the case is whether there was probable cause for the arrest leading to the search that produced the evidence on which the conviction rests. A timely motion to suppress the evidence was made by
There was a theft from an interstate shipment of whisky at a terminal in Chicago. The next day two FBI agents were in the neighborhood investigating it. They saw petitioner and one Pierotti walk across a street from a tavern and get into an automobile. The agents had been given, by the employer of Pierotti, information of an undisclosed nature "concerning the implication of the defendant Pierotti with interstate shipments." But, so far as the record shows, he never went so far as to tell the agents he suspected Pierotti of any such thefts. The agents followed the car and saw it enter an alley and stop. Petitioner got out of the car, entered a gangway leading to residential premises and returned in a few minutes with some cartons. He placed them in the car and he and Pierotti drove off. The agents were unable to follow the car. But later they found it parked at the same place near the tavern. Shortly they saw petitioner and Pierotti leave the tavern, get into the car, and drive off. The car stopped in the same alley as before; petitioner entered the same gangway and returned with more cartons. The agents observed this transaction from a distance of some 300 feet and could not determine the size, number or contents of the cartons. As the car drove off the agents followed it and finally, when they met it, waved it to a stop. As he got out of the car, petitioner was heard to say, "Hold it; it is the G's." This was followed by, "Tell him he [you] just picked me up." The agents searched the car, placed the cartons (which bore the name "Admiral" and were addressed to an out-of-state company) in their car, took the merchandise and petitioner and Pierotti to their office and held them for about two hours when the agents learned that the cartons contained
The statutory authority of FBI officers and agents to make felony arrests without a warrant is restricted to offenses committed "in their presence" or to instances where they have "reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing" a felony. 18 U. S. C. § 3052. The statute states the constitutional standard, for it is the command of the Fourth Amendment that no warrants for either searches or arrests shall issue except "upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
The requirement of probable cause has roots that are deep in our history. The general warrant,
And see North Carolina Declaration of Rights (1776), Art. XI; Pennsylvania Constitution (1776), Art. X; Massachusetts Constitution (1780), Pt. I, Art. XIV.
That philosophy later was reflected in the Fourth Amendment. And as the early American decisions both before
It is true that a federal crime had been committed at a terminal in the neighborhood, whisky having been stolen from an interstate shipment. Petitioner's friend, Pierotti, had been suspected of some implication in some interstate shipments, as we have said. But as this record stands, what those shipments were and the manner in which he was implicated remain unexplained and undefined. The rumor about him is therefore practically meaningless. On the record there was far from enough evidence against him to justify a magistrate in issuing a warrant. So far as the record shows, petitioner had not even been suspected of criminal activity prior to this time. Riding in the car, stopping in an alley, picking up packages, driving away—these were all acts that were outwardly innocent. Their movements in the car had no mark of fleeing men or men acting furtively. The case might be different if the packages had been taken from a terminal or from an interstate trucking platform. But they were not. As we have said, the alley where the packages were picked up was in a residential section.
The fact that the suspects were in an automobile is not enough. Carroll v. United States, supra, liberalized the rule governing searches when a moving vehicle is involved. But that decision merely relaxed the requirements for a warrant on grounds of practicality. It did not dispense with the need for probable cause.
MR. JUSTICE BLACK concurs in the result.
MR. JUSTICE CLARK, whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE joins, dissenting.
The Court decides this case on the narrow ground that the arrest took place at the moment the Federal Bureau of Investigation agents stopped the car in which petitioner was riding and at that time probable cause for it did not exist. While the Government, unnecessarily it seems to me, conceded that the arrest was made at the
The record shows beyond dispute that the agents had received information from co-defendant Pierotti's employer implicating Pierotti with interstate shipments. The agents began a surveillance of petitioner and Pierotti after recognizing them as they came out of a bar. Later the agents observed them loading cartons into an automobile from a gangway up an alley in Chicago. The agents had been trailing them, and after it appeared that they had delivered the first load of cartons, the suspects returned to the same platform by a circuitous route through streets and alleys. The agents then saw petitioner load another set of cartons into the car and drive off with the same. A few minutes later the agents stopped the car, alighted from their own car, and approached the petitioner. As they did so, petitioner was overheard to say: "Hold it; it is the G's," and "Tell him he [you] just picked me up." Since the agents had actually seen the two suspects together for several hours, it was apparent to them that the statement was untrue. Upon being questioned, the defendants stated that they had borrowed the car from a friend. During the questioning and after petitioner had stepped out of the car one of the agents happened to look through the door of the car which petitioner had left open and saw three cartons stacked up inside which resembled those petitioner had just loaded into the car from the gangway. The agent saw that the cartons bore Admiral shipping labels and were addressed to a company in Cincinnati, Ohio. Upon further questioning, the agent was told that the cartons
The Court seems to say that the mere stopping of the car amounted to an arrest of the petitioner. I cannot agree. The suspicious activities of the petitioner during the somewhat prolonged surveillance by the agents warranted the stopping of the car. The sighting of the cartons with their interstate labels in the car gave the agents reasonable ground to believe that a crime was in the course of its commission in their very presence. The search of the car and the subsequent arrest were therefore lawful and the motion to suppress was properly overruled.
In my view, the time at which the agents were required to have reasonable grounds to believe that petitioner was committing a felony was when they began the search of the automobile, which was after they had seen the cartons with interstate labels in the car. The earlier events certainly disclosed ample grounds to justify the following of the car, the subsequent stopping thereof, and the questioning of petitioner by the agents. This interrogation, together with the sighting of the cartons and the labels, gave the agents indisputable probable cause for the search and arrest.
When an investigation proceeds to the point where an agent has reasonable grounds to believe that an offense is being committed in his presence, he is obligated to proceed to make such searches, seizures, and arrests as the circumstances require. It is only by such alertness that crime is discovered, interrupted, prevented, and punished. We should not place additional burdens on law enforcement agencies.
Uniform Crime Reports for the United States, compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Vol. XXVIII, No. 1, Semiannual Bull., 1957), pp. 64, 65, shows 1956 arrest statistics for 1,025 cities in the United States, including 26 cities over 250,000 population and 458 cities under 10,000 population.
The report states that 111,274 were arrested on suspicion (but not in connection with any specific offense) and subsequently released without prosecution. This was at the rate of 280.4 per 100,000 inhabitants.
The grand total of persons arrested—both for a specific offense (but excluding traffic offenses) and on suspicion alone—and released without being held for prosecution was 264,601. This was at the rate of 666.7 per 100,000 inhabitants.