Lambert v. California

RESPONDENT: California
LOCATION: Railroad Crossing

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1957-1958)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 355 US 225 (1957)
ARGUED: Apr 03, 1957
REARGUED: Oct 16, 1957 / Oct 17, 1957
DECIDED: Dec 16, 1957

Clarence A. Linn - Assistant Attorney General of California, reargued the cause for the appellee pursuant to an invitation of the Court
Philip E. Grey - argued and reargued the for appellee
Samuel C. McMorris - argued and reargued for the appellant
Warren M. Christopher - reargued the cause, as amicus curiae, in support of the appellant, at the invitation of the Court

Facts of the case


Media for Lambert v. California

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 03, 1957 (Part 1) in Lambert v. California
Audio Transcription for Oral Reargument - October 17, 1957 in Lambert v. California
Audio Transcription for Oral Reargument - October 16, 1957 in Lambert v. California

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 03, 1957 (Part 2) in Lambert v. California

Earl Warren:

-- you may proceed.

Samuel Carter McMorris:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice.

Now, may I answer to the best of my ability the last question presented was why was she arrested.

I have two theories because one, there is the type of arrest where they simply a false arrest in which a police officer just stopped anybody they have the faintest suspicion, it might be dope users, something like that.

Then you -- they arrest you, search you, check your arms.

If you've got them, it marks the person you arrest.

Recently, one of the few and we spoke with the facts in -- in California, particularly certain neighborhoods.

They may be minority neighborhoods or they may be the Skid Row neighborhood, but there are neighborhoods where you simply have false arrest.

My second theory is the officer may have mistaken her for someone else.

But neither event she wasn't who he thought she was and -- and upon finding no present violation of crime they held her for not having arrested for crimes she committed four years ago of which she had no notice or duty to register.

And now, I repeat that I think that in orders like this to be reasonable, to be constitutional, must keep notice as on Section 290 of our penal code, which requires that a person -- the Court could -- puts him on probation or the -- or the probation officer when the -- or the warden or some -- and some -- or to somebody to have him sign in writing or have been told that I must register.

Then of course if they commit the crime they have had some prior knowledge.

This is not the kind of thing in which I think mens rea may be dispensed with.

I think taken the Kahriger case from this Court, on the registration of -- of gamblers as an example in which this Court went even further.

And here, a person who knew he had a duty to register, but did not do so because he thought that was unconstitutional to require him to register, was held to be not violative of the statute because in here we don't even have a notice to register.

And the other person was held guilty of failing to do what he's -- have never been told they had to do, which you couldn't learn in due course, in normal course that you had to do.

It's not like selling meat or driving a car where you have an affirmative act about which you can get advice or have you inspect those meat.

Here is an act, a big thing to abstract which you ought to know you have to do.

And how many are faced before that category which no one has any notice.

I think that notice in this type of ordinance as -- and it isn't all federal ordinance of the type where they got hold a person for violation of an ordinance to do something or law to do something.

And same thing was said in the Kahriger case on the gamblers registration law.

Now, it is also my point that the law requires self-incrimination.

We have in California case, I cite on page 14 of my brief, People against McCormick which held that the law requiring Communist to register was unconstitutional because it was self-incriminating.

And we submit for reasons pointed out here, I won't take too much time because my time is expiring.

The reason pointed out in the brief, we submit, that this ordinance is in the same category.

Particularly, in view of the fact that we have to reveal past criminality and that California has a statute on habitual criminality which you must reveal under this particular law.

And the McCormick case if applied equally to Ms.Lambert would have -- would have outbid this -- this conviction.

Now, as I was saying this -- this law is unreasonable and that it is not applied and that no one registered.

Only 10% has registered and most of them have no notice, except those who have registered and the ones who have notice under 290 penal codes.

Very few register as felons generally.