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Belton v. State

Decided: February 26, 1962.


Appeal from the Criminal Court of Baltimore; Carter, J.

Brune, C. J., and Hammond, Horney, Marbury and Sybert, JJ. Horney, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.


The primary question in this case is whether the evidence obtained as a result of an admittedly unlawful search and seizure had been rendered inadmissible by the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961).

On January 25, 1961, the narcotic squad of the Police Department of Baltimore City, in response to a telephone call, went to 629 Dover Street and attempted to force their way into the house. When, in order to forestall a breaking down of the door, someone on the inside released the chain lock, the officers rushed to the second floor bathroom and, on opening the door, found the defendant. An examination revealed that his right forearm was bleeding, and an improvised syringe (an eye dropper) was found on the floor. The defendant was placed under arrest immediately and then searched. No illegal evidence

was found on his person, but when the premises were searched certain narcotics paraphernalia were found. At the time the defendant was a guest of his aunt who owned the house.

All of the occupants of the premises, including the defendant, were taken to police headquarters, where they were questioned. On the day following, in a statement made to Lt. Jacob Simonsen and Capt. Joseph Carroll in the presence of another officer, the defendant admitted that he had made a bus trip to Washington, purchased a ten dollar deck of heroin there and returned to the home of his aunt. On his return he placed the loose heroin in capsules, and had used the contents of two of them before the police came. When he heard the police coming, he ran to the bathroom, closed the door and threw the remaining capsules and hypodermic needle (but not the eye dropper) into the toilet and flushed it.

At the trial before a jury the paraphernalia seized in the search was admitted in evidence over the objection of the defendant. The State, in its case in chief, also produced Lt. Simonsen, who, without objection, related the details of the defendant's statement to the police as to the purchase of heroin and the possession of narcotics paraphernalia. But when the defendant testified in his own behalf, he denied making the statement. Whereupon the State called Capt. Carroll in rebuttal and he -- over an objection that the testimony would be merely cumulative to, or corroborative of, that already offered in chief -- also testified as to the oral statement made by the defendant to the police.

The jury convicted the defendant for the possession and control of a narcotic drug and the possession of narcotics paraphernalia, and found that he was a second offender. This appeal is from the judgment and sentence entered on the verdict.

In addition to the question as to the admissibility of the tangible evidence seized in the search, the appellant further contends that he had standing to object and that the judgment appealed from is not final. There is also a minor contention that it was error to admit the rebuttal testimony over objection.

In Mapp. v. Ohio, supra, the Supreme Court, in unequivocally declaring that the federal rule excluding illegally seized evidence is of constitutional origin, held that "all evidence obtained by searches and seizures in violation of the Constitution [of the United States] is, by that same authority, inadmissible in a state court." The rationale of the holding was, of course, based on the concept that the right of privacy guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment is enforceable against the states through the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In so holding, the Court specifically overruled Wolf v. Colorado, 338 U.S. 25 (1949), insofar as that decision had left to the states a choice of accepting or rejecting the federal exclusionary rule announced in Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616 (1886), and made obligatory in Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383 (1914).

To fully appreciate the possible impact of the Mapp decision in those states (including Maryland) that had declined to adopt the Boyd doctrine as it was given force in Weeks, it may be well to briefly outline the history of the admissibility of evidence obtained as the result of an unreasonable search and seizure. At common law an illegal search and seizure was a collateral matter -- for which a civil action for damages could be instituted -- that did not affect the admissibility of the evidence thus obtained. See Entick v. Carrington, 19 Howell's State Trials, col. 1029 (1765). In the United States, inasmuch as the Fourth Amendment was not regarded at first as affecting the common law doctrine, that rule was followed by the federal government as well as the states for many years. But in 1886 in Boyd v. United States, supra, the Supreme Court rejected the common law concept with regard to a search and seizure made in violation of the Fourth Amendment. And, in concluding that the Fourth and Fifth Amendments were so related historically that they had to be considered together, the Court held that evidence seized in an ...

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