Combs v. United States

RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Christian County, Kentucky

DOCKET NO.: 71-517
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 408 US 224 (1972)
ARGUED: Apr 11, 1972
DECIDED: Jun 26, 1972

James N. Perry - for petitioner
William Bradford Reynolds - for respondent

Facts of the case


Media for Combs v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 11, 1972 in Combs v. United States

Warren E. Burger:

We’ll hear arguments next in 71-517, Combs against the United States.

Mr. Perry, you may proceed.

James N. Perry:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

We’d like to acknowledge and recognize that Mr. William F. Hopkins would have been here today, but on advice of counsel, he was unable to travel to Washington.

The petitioner was charged with an indictment having to do with receiving, possessing, and concealing goods that were stolen in interstate commerce.

When the matter came on for trial, there was a pretrial motion to suppress.

The argument was basically that the affidavit in the search warrant was defective.

Without the issue of standing having been challenged, the Court overruled the pretrial motion to suppress, the matter went to trial, petitioner was found guilty.

When the matter was appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals for the first time, the United States Government raised the issue of standing.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that we did not have standing and they affirmed the trial court.

Now, the argument of the petitioner is relatively straight forward.

We feel there’s a tension between the Fourth and the Fifth Amendment.

We’re relying upon Jones and we’re relying upon Simmons, and we’re saying that if an indictment has as one of its element’s possession, the Government cannot deny to a standing to attack a search warrant.

Now the Government has argued that actually they have two positions.

They’ve argued that Simmons gives the petitioner protection because whatever he says at the pretrial hearing cannot be used against him but the trial in chief.

And they also, have urged the Court to adopt the theory that a thief can have no expectation of privacy with regard to the goods that he stolen, and cannot therefore bring himself within the Fourth Amendment.

Byron R. White:

Let’s assume that the thief hides his goods in a checkroom, he just hides it there.

The police said here that he did it and they simply go the checkroom operator and say, we would like to look around here for some goods we think that were stolen.

The checkroom operator says, come on in.

The police go in and they find the good.

Now at that point, is it your position that the police may not seize those goods without a warrant?

James N. Perry:

No, Your Honor.

I’d say they had permission to enter the checkroom by the checkroom girl.

Byron R. White:

Well, I know but they didn’t have permission from anybody to take the good and the Fourth Amendment protects those effects.

James N. Perry:

Yes sir.

Byron R. White:

That’s your point, isn’t it?

James N. Perry:

Yes, sir.

Byron R. White:

Well now, couldn’t it -- the Court could say, well we -- surely you have standing to object in the sense that they’re your goods but they’re has just been no violation of your Fourth Amendment rights because the police may seize stolen goods without violating anybody’s Fourth Amendment right?

James N. Perry:

Yes, sir.

I would say that the thief at least has standing to make that argument, he may lose.