LOCATION: United States Post Office and Courthouse
DOCKET NO.: 294
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
CITATION: 380 US 693 (1965)
ARGUED: Mar 31, 1965
DECIDED: Apr 29, 1965
Facts of the case
Media for One 1958 Plymouth Sedan v. Pennsylvania
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 31, 1965 in One 1958 Plymouth Sedan v. Pennsylvania
Number 294 [Inaudible] Mr. Shmukler.
Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court.
This case is here on a petition for forfeiture of an automobile which was seized as it crossed the Stateline from New Jersey to Pennsylvania.
The car was stopped.
The driver was arrested and the car was seized as was 375 bottles of liquor contained in the trunk and the rear seat of the car.
These bottles of liquor were legitimate brand name bottles of liquor which did not contain Pennsylvania state license tax stamps.
The lower court denied the petition for forfeiture, concluding that there had been an unreasonable search and seizure, that there had been no probable cause for stopping the car.
The Superior Court of Pennsylvania reversed, concluding that the State does and should have the right to stop travelers to find out if they are transporting any items upon which a tax would be due.
And they concluded without actually making a factual finding that the search and seizure had been reasonable under the circumstances.
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania completely invade -- or avoided this question by concluding that the exclusionary rule is not applicable in a forfeiture proceeding which it concluded was not a criminal proceeding.
Less than four years ago, this Court in Mapp versus Ohio concluded that it was going to close the only courtroom door, remaining open to evidence secured by official lawlessness in flagrant abuse of the basic right of privacy reserved to all persons as a specific guarantee against that very same lawless conduct.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania apparently finding the courtroom doors closed is apparently trying to get into the courtroom windows.
Here, they are arguing that the exclusionary rule does not apply in a forfeiture proceeding, it applies only in criminal cases.
I believe that the Mapp citation -- quotation from Mapp does not so restrict the rule.
The first question here to be decided I believe, is whether there was probable cause or stopping the car, arresting the driver and seizing the liquor and the automobile without a warrant.
Well that's a question that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court did not get to because they cite a standard wrong, because that court held that even if there was a probable cause, still a disciplinary rule did not apply to a forfeiture proceeding, is that correct?
That's correct sir.
So if we should agree with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, we would -- wouldn't get to this question although you had properly refer to the first question in your argument, is that right?
That's correct Justice Stewart.
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania concluded that there are no property rights in contraband and that therefore, they never got to the question whether there was an unlawful search and seizure.
It's respectfully submitted however that this car is not itself contraband unless and until it has been proved in a court of law that its use was illegal.
You mean Mr. Shmukler they had to make you change around the order of your argument at all?
I just want to be sure I understood (Voice Overlap) --
That's quite right sir.
I -- both questions have to be faced and I'm willing to face it now.
It is respectfully submitted that we are not questioning here, items which are per se contraband.
We are questioning here the seizure and forfeiture of an automobile which is not itself contraband, but which is contraband only because evidence is submitted in a court of law showing that it was used illegally.
In other words, it is not per se contraband like narcotics, counterfeit plates and other items which the -- mere possession would be a crime.
William J. Brennan, Jr.:
Sir, the Pennsylvania statute provides that the possession of unstamped liquor is a crime and that the liquor itself would be forfeit as could the vehicle used in transportation.