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Brinegar v. United States

338 U.S. 160 (1949)

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Brinegar v. United States

United States Supreme Court

338 U.S. 160 (1949)

Facts

Two federal Alcohol Tax Unit agents were parked beside the highway in Oklahoma, approximately five miles from the Missouri state line and along a known smuggling route. At the time, Missouri allowed the importation of liquor, but Oklahoma did not. Brinegar (defendant) drove past the agents from the direction of the state line, and one of the agents recognized both Brinegar and his car. During the preceding six months, the agent had arrested Brinegar for illegally transporting liquor and had seen Brinegar loading large amounts of liquor into a car in Joplin, Missouri, at least twice. The agent also knew that Brinegar had a reputation for smuggling liquor. Brinegar sped up as he passed the agents’ car, and they chased him, forcing him into a ditch. The officers asked Brinegar how much liquor he had in the car, to which Brinegar replied, “Not too much.” After further questioning, Brinegar admitted to having 12 cases of liquor. The officers arrested Brinegar and seized the liquor. Brinegar was tried in federal district court, where he moved to suppress the liquor from evidence, arguing that the search of his car and seizure of the liquor had violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The motion to suppress was denied, and Brinegar was convicted of illegally importing the liquor into Oklahoma. The court of appeals affirmed Brinegar’s conviction, and the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Rutledge, J.)

Concurrence (Burton, J.)

Dissent (Jackson, J.)

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