Draper v. United States

PETITIONER: James Draper
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Union Station

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

CITATION: 358 US 307 (1959)
ARGUED: Dec 11, 1958
DECIDED: Jan 26, 1959
GRANTED: Jun 30, 1958

Leonard B. Sand - for the respondent
Osmond K. Fraenkel - for the petitioner

Facts of the case

John Marsh, a federal narcotics agent, was stationed in Denver and regularly worked with James Hereford, a paid informant. On September 3, 1956, Hereford told Marsh that James Draper had recently moved to Denver and was dealing drugs. Four days later, Hereford informed Marsh that Draper had gone to Chicago to pick up heroin and would be returning by train on either the morning of September 8 or 9. Hereford also provided a detailed description of Draper and the bag he would likely be carrying. On September 9, Marsh and a Denver police agent saw a person exactly matching that description exit a train from Chicago. Marsh and the police officer stopped him and arrested him. In his pocket they found two envelopes containing heroin, and they found a syringe in his bag.

Before his trial, Draper moved to suppress the evidence of the drugs and the syringe as having been secured through an unlawful search and seizure. The district court dismissed the motion after finding that the officers had probable cause to arrest Draper without a warrant and therefore the evidence was the fruit of a lawful search. Draper was tried and convicted of knowingly concealing and transporting drugs. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second District affirmed.


Does knowledge provided by an informant give the police probable cause under the Fourth Amendment to arrest and search a suspect?

Media for Draper v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 11, 1958 in Draper v. United States

Hugo L. Black:

Number 136, Draper against the United States.

Mr. Fraenkel.

Osmond K. Fraenkel:

May it please the Court.

This is a federal narcotics conviction here on the question with respect to the admissibility of evidence seized at the time of an arrest without warrant.

The case depends therefore upon the issue whether or not the arresting agent had probably case to make the arrest.

The arrest was made in the railroad station in Denver.

A few days after the arresting agent had received information from an informer, whose identity was disclosed at the trial, the informer in the mean time having conveniently died so that his identity was easily disclosed.

The informer had done this.

He had telephoned the agent saying Draper is a peddler.

Nothing happened after that.

No attempt was made to shuttle Draper.

Few days later the informer calls up again and he says, "Draper has gone to Chicago and will come back in a day or two with narcotics."

A description of Draper was given to the agent.

Nothing was done then in any attempt to check on Draper's movements in Chicago.

But the agents, a whole group of them went to the railroad station on each of the succeeding days and watched trains as they came in from Chicago.

And on the second of the two days, they saw a man who answered the description which had been given.

They approached him -- or one of the agents approached him, asking his name, the agent testified that he gave a certain name which later turned out not to be his, they then placed him under arrest, searched him and found the heroin.

A motion was timely made to suppress.

The evidence so seized was denied.

The conviction affirmed, with a strong dissent this Court granted certiorari.

Now we contended that this was an improper arrest.

That the agent acted on hearsay that the hearsay was conclusory and more over that there was not even information given to the agent that a crime had in fact been committed but merely information that it was expected that a crime was going to be committed.

The court below recognized that the information given by the informer would not have justified the arrest, the agent at the trial on the appearance to suppress did not testify whether he had enquired of the informer, what basis the informer had for the statements made.

Was he asked that question?

Osmond K. Fraenkel:

He was not asked by anyone.

By either side?

Osmond K. Fraenkel:

By either side.

The government makes some suggestion in its brief here that the defendant should have asked the question but we submit that that is wholly an -- out of the question.

The government was in possession of the facts.

If any inquiry had been made by the agent of the informer it was the government's duty to bring out the facts.