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United States v. Price

May 17, 1965

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLEE,
v.
FRANK WARREN PRICE AND WILLIAM RILEY, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Author: Moore

Before SWAN, WATERMAN and MOORE, Circuit Judges.

MOORE, Circuit Judge.

Frank Price and William Riley were indicted for possessing an unregistered still, 26 U.S.C.A. § 5179(a), fermenting mash for alcohol in an unauthorized distillery, 26 U.S.C.A. § 5222(a) (1), carrying on a distillery business without the required bond, 26 U.S.C.A. § 5173(a), (b), and conspiring to violate all of the above laws, 18 U.S.C.A. § 371. After a nonjury trial before Judge Rayfiel, they were both convicted and sentenced to 30 days' imprisonment on each count, to run concurrently.

On this appeal Price and Riley raise no question as to the sufficiency of the evidence. Rather, they claim that certain items of evidence were inadmissible and should have been suppressed either on their motion to suppress, decided after a hearing by Judge Dooling (unreported), or on trial. They argue that this evidence was the result of an unlawful search and seizure, that Price's arrest was invalid, and that certain admissions were tainted by these infirmities and by unnecessary delay in arraignment. The material facts are not in dispute.

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Unit (ATTU) received a tip from an informer that an illegal still was being operated at 146-12 106th Avenue in Jamaica, New York. Shortly thereafter federal officers began surveillance of that building from a school across the street. A few days later officers LaPerch, Boylan and Ginley, who had begun watching in late afternoon, at 8:30 in the evening saw a man carrying a heavy-looking package leave No. 146-12. The officers tried to follow, but they lost him. He returned at 10:00 P.M. At 10:30 P.M. he left again carrying a similar heavy-looking package. The officers again followed him. He saw them, started to run, threw down the package, and fell down. Boylan smelled and tasted the contents, some of which remained in the broken fragments of a bottle that had been in the package. He determined the liquid to be corn whiskey. The bottle had no stamp tax affixed. LaPerch, after tasting and smelling the contents, verified Boylan's conclusion. The officers arrested the man, who identified himself as Riley. Riley first said that he obtained the whiskey from a man on the corner. LaPerch then told him, "Don't lie to us. You don't have to tell us, but if you do, we can use it against you. We were watching you."*fn1 Riley thereupon said he obtained the whiskey from a man on the second floor of No. 146-12, and he agreed to take the officers there.

After entering the common entranceway on the ground floor, through the unlocked door, the officers noticed heat and the smell of mash, both of which increased as they climbed the stairs. LaPerch approached the rear apartment on the second floor and saw a woman standing in the hall before the fully opened door of the apartment. From the hall could be seen a sheet hanging over a doorway off the parlor. LaPerch asked the woman where the still was and she stepped back, saying nothing. LaPerch and Ginley passed her and entered through the open door into the parlor. Not finding the man they walked through the sheeted door, which led to the kitchen. A 50-gallon still was operating there and many one-gallon bottles were evident - some apparently with whiskey and some without. Boylan and Riley were let in through a kitchen door, and Boylan heard a noise in a room off the kitchen. Under a blanket he found a man who said that he was Price, that he lived there, and that he owned the still. Price was then arrested; the time was about 11:00 P.M.

The agents took samples from the still and seized some components. They then destroyed the still. This took about an hour. Price and Riley were then taken to a local police precinct where they remained for an hour. They were not questioned. The next hour or so was taken up driving to Manhattan. Prior to being lodged overnight at the Federal House of Detention they were taken to the ATTU office for routine processing. Price there made a statement which took almost an hour to record and type. He signed it at about 4:30 A.M. During these hours Price and Riley seem to have been asked some questions sporadically, but had not at all been subjected to constant interrogation. About 10:00 A.M. the next day they were taken to the United States Court House where an Assistant U.S. Attorney drew up the complaint to be used before the Commissioner. During the part of an hour it took to dictate and type the complaint Riley was asked a few questions. He was advised of his Constitutional right to remain silent, and he neither requested nor was denied the opportunity to consult with counsel. He then confessed orally that he and Price were partners in running the still. Then, at 11:00 A.M. they were arraigned.

I.

An ATTU officer may "make arrests without warrant for any offense against the United States relating to the internal revenue laws committed in his presence, or any felony cognizable under such laws if he has reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed, or is committing any such felony." 26 U.S.C.A. § 7608(b) (2), (B). Having such "reasonable grounds," the equivalent of "probable cause," see Draper v. United States, 358 U.S. 307, 310 & n. 3, 79 S. Ct. 329, 3 L. Ed. 2d 327 (1959), an officer may enter the defendant's premises in order to effectuate the arrest*fn2

The legality of the arrest depends, then, upon whether, when entering the apartment*fn3, the officers had probable cause to believe that the person to be arrested had committed, or was committing, a felony relating to the Internal Revenue laws. Here the record quite justifies Judge Dooling's conclusion that, at the apartment threshold, as stated in Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160, 175-176, 69 S. Ct. 1302, 1311, 93 L. Ed. 1879 (1949): "'the facts and circumstances within their [the officers'] knowledge and of which they had reasonably trustworthy information [are] sufficient in themselves to warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that' an offense has been or is being committed. Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132, 162 [45 S. Ct. 280, 69 L. Ed. 543]," that is, inside was a man who had possessed or still possessed untaxpaid whiskey in violation of 26 U.S.C.A. § 5205(a). The officers had an informer's tip that an illegal still was being operated there*fn4, and with an illegal still there is usually a person possessing bootleg whiskey. They had twice seen Riley leaving No. 146-12 with similar heavy packages, at least the second one of which they knew contained such whiskey. They had Riley's statement that he had obtained the whiskey from a man on the second floor of No. 146-12*fn5 They had their own observations of intense heat and a mash smell within No. 146-12, increasing as they neared the second floor, and, visible through the open door, the doorway so strangely sheeted for an August evening in Queens*fn6 This all furthered the probability that Riley's supplier was still there tending his still. And corroborating that probability, they had the actions of the woman, suggesting that the still and its operator were inside that apartment. All of this can scarcely be brushed aside as "mere suspicion," Henry v. United States, 361 U.S. 98, 101, 80 S. Ct. 168, 4 L. Ed. 2d 134 (1959), or as being "flimsy and * * * unconvincing," Di Bella v. United States, 284 F.2d 897, 905 (2d Cir. 1960) (Waterman, J., dissenting), vacated on other grounds, 369 U.S. 121, 82 S. Ct. 654, 7 L. Ed. 2d 614 (1962). The officers had gone from the street to No. 146-12 to apprehend the man who had just supplied whiskey to Riley. Probable cause to believe that he was in the apartment at No. 146-12 increased with every step. It was certainly not diminished by the fact that once within the entryway the officers might also have had probable cause to believe that additional felonies had been or were being committed - the operation of an illegal still - nor by the fact that the location and seizure of the still then became an additional purpose of entering the apartment. Cf. Harris v. United States, 331 U.S. 145, 154-155, 67 S. Ct. 1098, 91 L. Ed. 1399 (1947); United States v. Rabinowitz, 339 U.S. 56, 63, 70 S. Ct. 430, 94 L. Ed. 653 (1950). On the contrary, probable cause was strengthened.

It was incumbent upon the agents, if they were to act as law enforcement officers, to follow through while they had every reason to believe that the crime was being committed. If they acted immediately upon all the facts then known to them, it was more than probable that the vendor would be found at the location which Riley had just left. If they had returned to New York or Brooklyn, waited until the next morning to visit a Commissioner, narrated their story in affidavit form, obtained warrants for arrest and search and seizure and then revisited the scene of their surveillance, it would have been less than probable that the vendor would have been patiently awaiting their arrival. Riley by telephone or otherwise could have given his vendor more adequate notice. Courts should not blind themselves to reality. The narcotics and alcohol vendors do not set up shop in the open market place to dispense their wares. The entry and seizure in these circumstances were not unreasonable.

This is not a case like Jones v. United States, 357 U.S. 493, 78 S. Ct. 1253, 2 L. Ed. 2d 1514 (1958), where the agents brushed aside defendant's wife and little boy to make a forcible entry solely to seize a still. In Jones, as the Court noted, since the agents had been told that Jones was not within, "their purpose in entering was to search for the distilling equipment, and not to arrest * * *" him. 357 U.S. at 500, 78 S. Ct. at 1257. Here, however, the officers were fully justified in believing that they would find within the man from whom Riley had obtained the whiskey.

Nor do we find in this case the "grave constitutional question" that troubled Justice Harlan in Jones. The unknown identity and possible flight demonstrate "why an arrest warrant could not have been sought * * *." Ibid. Moreover, the entry here, unlike that in Jones, was entirely peaceful*fn7 The absence of a forcible, fraudulently obtained, or stealthy entry serves to further distinguish this case from cases like Chapman v. United States, 365 U.S. 610, 81 S. Ct. 776, 5 L. Ed. 2d 828 (1961); McDonald v. United States, 335 U.S. 451, 69 S. Ct. 191, 93 L. Ed. 153 (1948); Taylor v. United States, 286 U.S. 1, 52 S. Ct. 466, 76 L. Ed. 951 (1932).

Nor is this case governed by Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10, 68 S. Ct. 367, 92 L. Ed. 436 (1948), although on first blush there are similarities. In that case, one of the elements of probable cause conceded by the government to be necessary was not determinable until the officers had made their entry. The protections of the Fourth Amendment cannot be circumvented by such a justification of an ...


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