Quimbee logo
DMCA.com Protection Status
From our private database of 16,500+ case briefs...

United States v. Ceccolini

United States Supreme Court
435 U.S. 268 (1978)


A police officer entered Lois Hennessy's shop without intending to search the shop and without any suspicion of Hennessy's conduct. The officer noticed cash sticking out of an envelope on the shop counter. The officer took the envelope and opened it in violation of Hennessy's Fourth Amendment rights. Inside the envelope, the officer found lottery tickets, which suggested Hennessy's involvement in an illegal gambling scheme. The officer tipped off a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent. Based on the agent's subsequent inquiries, a federal grand jury questioned Hennessy and Ralph Ceccolini (defendant) about the gambling scheme. Ceccolini denied his involvement in the scheme. Hennessy willingly testified and contradicted Ceccolini's testimony. Based on Hennessy's testimony, the United States (plaintiff) charged Ceccolini with lying to the grand jury. A judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York found Ceccolini guilty of perjury, but then voided the conviction. The judge ruled Hennessy's testimony inadmissible as the fruit a poisonous tree: the government was able to identify Hennessy as a key prosecution witness only because the police officer unconstitutionally uncovered Hennessy's involvement in the gambling scheme. The government appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which affirmed the judge's reversal of Ceccolini's conviction. The government then appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Rehnquist, J.)

Concurrence (Burger, C.J.)

Dissent (Marshall, J.)

What to do next…

  1. Unlock this case brief with a free (no-commitment) trial membership of Quimbee.

    You’ll be in good company: Quimbee is one of the most widely used and trusted sites for law students, serving more than 97,000 law students since 2011. Some law schools—such as Yale, Vanderbilt, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois—even subscribe directly to Quimbee for all their law students. Read our student testimonials.

  2. Learn more about Quimbee’s unique (and proven) approach to achieving great grades at law school.

    Quimbee is a company hell-bent on one thing: helping you get an “A” in every course you take in law school, so you can graduate at the top of your class and get a high-paying law job. We’re not just a study aid for law students; we’re the study aid for law students. Read more about Quimbee.

Here's why 409,000 law students have relied on our case briefs:

  • Written by law professors and practitioners, not other law students. 16,500 briefs, keyed to 223 casebooks. Top-notch customer support.
  • The right amount of information, includes the facts, issues, rule of law, holding and reasoning, and any concurrences and dissents.
  • Access in your classes, works on your mobile and tablet. Massive library of related video lessons and high quality multiple-choice questions.
  • Easy to use, uniform format for every case brief. Written in plain English, not in legalese. Our briefs summarize and simplify; they don’t just repeat the court’s language.

Questions & Answers

Have a question about this case?

Sign up for a free 7-day trial and ask it

Sign up for a FREE 7-day trial