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DAVIS V. UNITED STATES, 328 U. S. 582 (1946)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Davis v. United States, 328 U.S. 582 (1946)

Davis v. United States

No. 404

Argued February 5, 1946

Decided June 10, 1946

328 U.S. 582


1. Having obtained clear evidence of violations of the gasoline rationing regulations through sales without coupons and at above-ceiling prices (which are misdemeanors), officers arrested petitioner, president of the corporation which maintained the offending filling station, at his place of business during business hours and demanded ration coupons covering the aggregate amount of sales. After refusing at first, petitioner soon acquiesced and surrendered the coupons. In his trial for possessing them unlawfully (a misdemeanor), petitioner contended that there had been an unlawful search which resulted in seizure of the coupons and their use in evidence against him, in violation of his rights under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. The evidence was conflicting, but the District Court found that he had consented to the search and seizure and that no force or threat of force had been employed to persuade him. He was convicted.

Held: The conviction is affirmed, because this Court cannot say as a matter of law that the District Court's finding of fact was erroneous. Pp. 328 U. S. 593-594.

2. The gasoline ration coupons never became the private property of the holder, but remained at all times the property of the Government, and subject to inspection and recall by it. P. 328 U. S. 588.

3. In the law of searches and seizures, a distinction is made between private papers or documents and public property in the custody of a citizen. Wilson v. United States, 221 U. S. 361. Pp. 328 U. S. 589-591.

4. Whatever may be the limits of inspection under the regulations, law enforcement is not so impotent as to require officers who have the right to inspect a place of business to stand mute when clear evidence of criminal activity is known to them. Amos v. United States, 255 U. S. 313, distinguished. Pp. 328 U. S. 592-593.

5. Where officers seek to inspect public documents at the place of business where they are required to be kept, permissible limits of persuasion are not so narrow as where private papers are sought, since the demand is one of right. P. 328 U. S. 593.

151 F.2d 140 affirmed. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 328 U. S. 583

Petitioner was convicted of unlawful possession of gasoline ration coupons in violation of § 2(a) of the Act of June 28, 1940, as amended by the Act of May 31, 1941, and by § 301 of the Second War Powers Act of March 27, 1942. The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. 151 F.2d 140. This Court granted certiorari. 326 U.S. 711. Affirmed, p. 328 U. S. 594.

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