Harris v. United States

RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Connecticut Welfare Department

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

CITATION: 390 US 234 (1968)
ARGUED: Jan 18, 1968
DECIDED: Mar 05, 1968

Facts of the case


Media for Harris v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 18, 1968 in Harris v. United States

Earl Warren:

Number 92, James H. Harris, Petitioner, versus United States.

Mr. Weinstein.

Paul H. Weinstein:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This case is here on a writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reviewing judgment -- the decision of that court.

The issue presented before the Court today is may a property which was seized from the petitioner's automobile during a general administrative search at a time subsequent to petitioner's arrest after his automobile had been impounded by the police and towed where police -- precinct lot some four or five miles from the place of arrest while the petitioner was in custody and under lawful arrest at the police station be received in evidence against the petitioner consistent with the Fourth Amendment with the search of the automobile and the seizure of the property as performed without a warrant.

The regulation promulgated by the Metropolitan Police Department in this case is cited on page 3 of my brief.

During the late evening hours of August 29th, 1964 at approximately 11:45 PM that evening, a York robbery occurred in the 5500 Block of 13th Street, Northwest Washington DC.

Among one of the articles taken from the victim that evening was a registration card to his automobile bearing his name and identification of that automobile.

An off-duty police officer at approximately at the time of the robbery observed three colored males running North on 13th Street and enter a Ford automobile.

The officer wrote down a description of the automobile and the tag number.

He phoned this description in to the sixth precinct approximately five to 10 minutes after he observed the three males running North on 13th Street.

The next day another police officer was assigned to investigate this robbery.

And at that time was given a description of the automobile and the tag number.

The police officer at that time checked with the Motor Vehicle Department of the District of Columbia and ascertain that the petitioner in this case was the owner of that automobile and also that the car was registered to a premises in the vicinity of the 2500 Block of M Street, Northwest.

The police officer preceded to the area the 2500 Block of M Street Northwest, at which time, he saw the petitioner in this case attempt to enter his automobile.

The officer testified that the petitioner had opened the door to his car when he approached him, asked him his name, placed him under arrest for robbery.

The petitioner was placed in a police cruiser at that point.

The arresting officer conducted a cursory search of the automobile to see whether or not there were any weapons in the automobile.

He found none.

He then called for a police crane to come and tow the vehicle to the sixth precinct.

The car was left on the M street --at 1M Street unlocked and unattended to await the arrival of the police crane.

The arresting officer and his partner transported the petitioner via a police cruiser to the sixth precinct which was a ride of 10 to 20 minutes and was approximately six or seven miles from the place of arrest.

The time of arrest without any warrant was estimated to be at 1:30 PM in the afternoon.

At approximately 3:00 PM the same day, the operator of the crane arrived at the sixth precinct and informed the arresting officer that the car was on the lot inside of the precinct.

He notified the officer that there was a light rain falling, and that he did not roll up the windows because he did not want to disturb any finger prints which may have been found on the automobile.

Officer Baker who was the arresting officer went out to the automobile to make an inventory search pursuant to the police regulation which is cited again on page 3 of my brief.

Officer Baker first went and put a property tag on the steering wheel.

He then proceeded into the car.

He searched the glove compartment, the rear of the car and he also testified that he looked behind the sun visor.

He found nothing to remove from the car.