Rochin v. California
Decided on Jan. 2, 1952; 342 US 165


I. ISSUES II. CASE SUMMARY III. AMICI CURIAE IV. DECISION V. WIN OR LOSS?
I. ISSUES:

A. Issues Discussed: Search and seizure

B. Legal Question Presented:

Did the police conduct during their raid of the petitioner's home violate the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination? What are the limitations that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment imposes on the conduct of criminal proceedings by the State?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

"Having 'some information' that Petitioner was selling narcotics, three state officers entered his home and forced their way into the bedroom occupied by him and his wife. When asked about two capsules lying on a bedside table, petitioner put them in his mouth. After an unsuccessful struggle to extract them by force, the officers took petitioner to a hospital, where an emetic was forced into his stomach against his will. He vomited two capsules which were found to contain morphine.

These were admitted in evidence over his objection and he was convicted in a state court of violating a state law forbidding possession of morphine." The District Court of Appeal affirmed and the Supreme Court of California denied a review.

On certiorari the US Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the District Court of Appeal.

B. Counsel of Record:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
C. The Arguments:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
III. AMICI CURIAE:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Fred Okrand, A. L. Wirin, Edward J. Ennis, Morris L. Ernst, Osmond K. Fraenkel, Arthur Garfield Hays, Herbert M. Levy and Clore Warne filed a brief for the American Civil Liberties Union, as amicus curiae, urging reversal.

Dolly Lee Butler and A. L. Wirin argued the cause and filed a brief for petitioner.

Howard S. Goldin, Deputy Attorney General of California, argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were Edmund G. Brown, Attorney General, Clarence A. Linn, Assistant Attorney General, and Frank W. Richards, Deputy Attorney General.


IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

"[W]e are compelled to conclude that the proceedings by which this conviction was obtained do more than offend some fastidious squeamishness or private sentimentalism about combatting crime too energetically. This is conduct that shocks the conscience. Illegally breaking into the privacy of the petitioner, the struggle to open his mouth and remove what was there, the forcible extraction of his stomach's contents - this course of proceeding by agents of government to obtain evidence is bound to offend even hardened sensibilities. They are methods too close to the rack and the screw to permit of constitutional differentiation...

To attempt in this case to distinguish what lawyers call 'real evidence' from verbal evidence is to ignore the reasons for excluding coerced confessions. Use of involuntary verbal confessions in State criminal trials is constitutionally obnoxious not only because of their unreliability. They are inadmissible under the Due Process Clause even though statements contained in them may be independently established as true. Coerced confessions offend the community's sense of fair play and decency. So here, to sanction the brutal conduct which naturally enough was condemned by the court whose judgment is before us, would be to afford brutality the cloak of law. Nothing would be more calculated to discredit law and thereby to brutalize the temper of a society...

On the facts of this case the conviction of the petitioner has been obtained by methods that offend the Due Process Clause. The judgment below must be reversed."

Justice Vote: 8 Pro vs. 0 Con

  • Frankfurter, F. Pro (Wrote majority opinion)
  • Douglass, W. Pro (Wrote concurring opinion)
  • Black, H. Pro (Wrote concurring opinion)
  • Jackson, R. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Clark, T. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Vinson, F. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Reed, S. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Burton, H. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Minton, S. Took no part in the decision process
V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

The ACLU, as amicus curiae, urged reversal of the judgment of the District Court of Appeal; the Supreme Court reversed in a 8-0 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent win.