Cardwell v. Lewis

LOCATION: U.S. District Court

DOCKET NO.: 72-1603
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 417 US 583 (1974)
ARGUED: Mar 18, 1974
DECIDED: Jun 17, 1974

Mr. Andrew L. Frey - for the United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of Court
Bruce A. Campbell - for respondent
Leo J. Conway - for petitioner

Facts of the case

On July 24, 1967, police officers interrogated Arthur Ben Lewis regarding the murder that was committed five days ago. His car was observed near the place of the crime and was considered as for being engaged in it.

On October 10, the owner went to the police office for examination, during which his car was located at the nearest public parking place. Besides the police authority had been already entitled with the warrant for suspect’s arrest, they didn`t conduct it until the afternoon. After that, his car was pulled along to be subjected to the expertise. Under the results of examinations it was found that a tire suited the casting of a tire left on the place of the murder, also it was proven that the paint examples from Lewis`s car were the same as of the ones left on the car of the victim. The suspect was charged with the first-degree murder and condemned for it.

However, he sued before the district court which upheld the appellant complains that the seizure and expertise of the defendant`s car were conducted contradicting the Fourth and Fourteen Amendments, and therefore the received evidence was considered as outlawed. The Court of Appeals confirmed that the sample of the paint was seized with the breach of the constitutional guarantees. The judges found that the towing of the car had no reasonable grounds, like that it was involved in crime, therefore was not authorized by the warrant.

After that, the case was revised by the Supreme Court of the USA. The judges upheld that as the Fourth Amendment protected the right to the privacy and private property but in this case, the expertise was proven by the substantial reasons for it and didn`t infringe the private objects. Moreover, Cardwell v Lewis case brief notes that the judgment cited Chambers v. Maroney that confirmed that power of warrant could be applied to the transport means rather than homes. The judges determined that the defendant` car was pulled along from the public place but not from the private estate.

Hence, the case study concludes that Cardwell v Lewis suit had to be reversed under the ruling of the Supreme Court.


Media for Cardwell v. Lewis

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 18, 1974 in Cardwell v. Lewis

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 17, 1974 in Cardwell v. Lewis

Harry A. Blackmun:

The third case, number 72-1603, Cardwell against Lewis.

This comes to us in the form of an application in federal habeas from the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

In July 1967, almost seven years ago, the body of a man named Radcliffe was found near his car on the banks of the Olentangy River in Delaware County, Ohio.

The car had gone over the embankment and had come to rest in brush.

Radcliffe had died from shotgun wounds.

The police made casts of tire tracks at the scene and removed foreign paint scrapings from the fender of the victim’s automobile.

Within five days the investigation of the murder began to focus upon respondent Lewis.

He was interviewed but nothing definitive developed from that interview.

On October 10th, in response to a request, Lewis appeared at the Division of Criminal Activities in Columbus for further questioning.

He drove his automobile that morning to downtown Columbus and parked it in the nearby commercial public parking lot.

Earlier the police had obtained a warrant for Lewis’ arrest, but did not seek or obtain a warrant for the search of his automobile.

The interrogation went on most of the day and Lewis was formerly arrested in late afternoon.

His car keys were turned over to the police and they towed the automobile from the parking lot to the police impoundment lot.

The next morning, without a search warrant, examination of the outside of the car revealed that one of its operative tires matched the cast of the impression made at the scene of the crime and also revealed that paint samples taken from Lewis’ car were not different from the foreign paint on the fender of the victim’s car.

Lewis was tried for murder in the Ohio State Court and was convicted.

On appeal his conviction was affirmed and this Court denied certiorari.

Later Mr. Lewis sought a writ of a habeas corpus in Federal Court.

The Federal District Court concluded that the seizure of the automobile in examination of its exterior violated Lewis’ rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and that the evidence obtained from the examination should have been excluded at the trial.

The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the scraping of the paint was a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, that the search was not incident to the arrest, and that the car’s seizure could not be justified on the ground that it was an instrumentality of the crime in plain view.

We reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

In a plurality opinion, in which the Chief Justice and Mr. Justice White and Mr. Justice Rehnquist joined, four of us conclude that the examination of the exterior of the automobile was reasonable and invaded no right of privacy that the requirement of a search warrant was meant to protect, particularly where the so-called search was made as here on the basis of probable cause and was of a movable automobile.

We also conclude that under the circumstances of this case, the seizure, by impounding the car, was not unreasonable.

Mr. Justice Powell has filed a concurring opinion.

He is of the view that the inquiry of a Federal Court on habeas of a state prisoner’s Fourth Amendment claim should be confined solely to the question whether the defendant had an opportunity in the state courts to raise his claim and have it adjudicated fairly there.

Thus, he would reverse the judgment because Mr. Lewis does not contend that he was denied that opportunity.

There is a dissent which will be announced.

Potter Stewart:

Mr. Justice Douglas, Mr. Justice Brennan, Mr. Justice Marshall and I respectfully dissent from the opinion and judgment of the Court in this case.

The most fundamental rule in this area of constitutional law is that searches and seizures conducted outside the judicial process, i.e., without a warrant issued by a judge or a magistrate are unconstitutional, subject only to a few specifically established and well-delineated exceptions.

Since there was no warrant authorizing the seizure or the search in this case and since none of the specifically established and well-delineated exceptions to the warrant requirement existed on the facts of this record, we are convinced that the judgment of the Court of Appeals should be affirmed.

We would follow the settled constitutional law established in our previous decisions and accordingly we would affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.