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Draper v. United States

Dissent Says Arrest Unlawful

Justice Douglas issued a lengthy dissent in which he concluded that the arrest made on the mere word of an informer violated the spirit of the Fourth Amendment and the requirement of the law governing arrests in narcotics cases. According to Douglas, "apart from those cases where the crime is committed in the presence of the officer, arrests without warrants, like searches without warrants, are the exception, not the rule in our society." Justice Douglas considered the majority's ruling a break from America's long history of opposition to arrests based on "whispered charges and accusations . . . in lieu of evidence of unlawful acts." Douglas stated, "[d]own to this day . . . [s]o far as I can ascertain the mere word of an informer, not bolstered by some evidence that a crime had been or was being committed, has never been approved by this Court as `reasonable grounds' for making an arrest without a warrant."

Although Justice Douglas agreed with the majority that "proof of `reasonable grounds' for believing a crime was being committed need not be proof admissible at the trial," he nonetheless concluded that "[m]ere suspicion is not enough; there must be circumstances represented to the officers through the testimony of their senses sufficient to justify them in a good-faith belief that the defendant had violated the law." According to Douglas,

[n]othing but suspicion is shown in the instant case--suspicion of an informer, not that of the arresting officers. Nor did they seek to obtain from the informer any information on which he based his belief. The arresting officers did not have a bit of evidence that the petitioner had committed or was committing a crime before the arrest. The only evidence of guilt was provided by the arrest itself.

Douglas contended that had the arresting officers gone to a

magistrate to get a warrant of arrest and relied solely on the report of the informer, it is not conceivable . . . that one would be granted . . . [because] they could not present to the magistrate any of the facts which the informer may have had. They could swear only to the fact that the informer had made the accusation.

Douglas concluded that, "[w]e are not justified in lowering the standard when an arrest is made without a warrant and allowing the officers more leeway than we grant the magistrate."

Also, this arrest could not be sanctioned based on the heroin that was uncovered during the search of petitioner after the arrest. "[A] search is not to be made legal by what it turns up. In law it is good or bad when it starts and does not change character from its success."

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1954 to 1962Draper v. United States - Significance, Informant Provided "reasonable Grounds", Dissent Says Arrest Unlawful, Impact, Related Cases