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Wong Sun v. United States

Supreme Court of the United States

March 29 and April 2, 1962, Argued ; January 14, 1963, Decided

No. 36

Opinion

 [*472]  [***446]  [**409]    MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

The petitioners were tried without a jury in the District Court for the Northern District of California under a two-count indictment for violation of the Federal Narcotics  [*473]  Laws, 21 U. S. C. § 174. 1 They were acquitted under the first count which charged a conspiracy, but convicted under the second  [**410]  count which charged the substantive offense of fraudulent and knowing transportation and concealment [****5]  of illegally imported heroin. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, one judge dissenting, affirmed the convictions. 288 F.2d 366. We granted certiorari. 368 U.S. 817. We heard  [***447]  argument in the 1961 Term and reargument this Term. 370 U.S. 908.

 [****6]  About 2 a. m. on the morning of June 4, 1959, federal narcotics agents in San Francisco, after having had one Hom Way under surveillance for six weeks, arrested him and found heroin in his possession. Hom Way, who had not before been an informant, stated after his arrest that he had bought an ounce of heroin the night before from one known to him only as "Blackie Toy," proprietor of a laundry on Leavenworth Street.

About 6 a. m. that morning six or seven federal agents went to a laundry at 1733 Leavenworth Street. The sign  [*474]  above the door of this establishment said "Oye's Laundry." It was operated by the petitioner James Wah Toy. There is, however, nothing in the record which identifies James Wah Toy and "Blackie Toy" as the same person. The other federal officers remained nearby out of sight while Agent Alton Wong, who was of Chinese ancestry, rang the bell. When petitioner Toy appeared and opened the door, Agent Wong told him that he was calling for laundry and dry cleaning. Toy replied that he didn't open until 8 o'clock and told the agent to come back at that time. Toy started to close the door. Agent Wong thereupon took his badge from his pocket and said,  [****7]  "I am a federal narcotics agent." Toy immediately "slammed the door and started running" down the hallway through the laundry to his living quarters at the back where his wife and child were sleeping in a bedroom. Agent Wong and the other federal officers broke open the door and followed Toy down the hallway to the living quarters and into the bedroom. Toy reached into a nightstand drawer. Agent Wong thereupon drew his pistol, pulled Toy's hand out of the drawer, placed him under arrest and handcuffed him. There was nothing in the drawer and a search of the premises uncovered no narcotics.

One of the agents said to Toy ". . . [Hom Way] says he got narcotics from you." Toy responded, "No, I haven't been selling any narcotics at all. However, I do know somebody who has." When asked who that was, Toy said, "I only know him as Johnny. I don't know his last name." However, Toy described a house on Eleventh Avenue where he said Johnny lived; he also described a bedroom in the house where he said "Johnny kept about a piece" 2 of heroin, and where he and Johnny had smoked some of the drug the night before. The agents  [*475]  left immediately for Eleventh Avenue and located the [****8]  house. They entered and found one Johnny Yee in the bedroom. After a discussion with the agents, Yee took from a bureau drawer several tubes containing in all just less than one ounce of heroin, and surrendered them. Within the hour Yee and Toy were taken to the Office of the Bureau  [**411]  of Narcotics. Yee there stated that the heroin had been brought to him some four days earlier by petitioner Toy and another Chinese known to him only as "Sea Dog."

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371 U.S. 471 *; 83 S. Ct. 407 **; 9 L. Ed. 2d 441 ***; 1963 U.S. LEXIS 2431 ****

WONG SUN ET AL. v. UNITED STATES

Subsequent History:  [****1]  Restored to calendar for reargument June 4, 1962. Reargued October 8, 1962.

Prior History: CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT.

Disposition:  288 F.2d 366, reversed and cause remanded.

CORE TERMS

arrest, narcotics, heroin, corroboration, laundry, door, probable cause, confession, declarations, bedroom, flight, arrest warrant, circumstances, guilt, reliable, fruits, night, ounce, possession of narcotics, exclusionary rule, search warrant, announcement, surrendered, contents, unsigned, smoked, trial court, inadmissible, arraignment, suspicion

Criminal Law & Procedure, Controlled Substances, Delivery, Distribution & Sale, General Overview, International Trade Law, International Commerce & Trade, Exports & Imports, Possession, Simple Possession, Search & Seizure, Fruit of the Poisonous Tree, Rule Application & Interpretation, Business & Corporate Compliance, Tariff Act, Warrantless Searches, Exigent Circumstances, Mere Suspicion, Commencement of Criminal Proceedings, Arrests, Probable Cause, Reasonable & Prudent Standard, Search Warrants, Probable Cause, Personal Knowledge, Warrants, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Exclusionary Rule, Derivative Evidence, Governments, Federal Government, Employees & Officials, Attenuation, Evidence, Procedural Matters, Objections & Offers of Proof, Objections, Interrogation, Noncustodial Confessions & Statements, Inchoate Crimes, Conspiracy, Elements, Hearsay, Rule Components, Statements, Trials, Examination of Witnesses, Admission of Codefendant Statements, Jury Instructions, Limiting Instructions, Exemptions, Confessions, Statements as Evidence, Rule Components, Statements by Coconspirators, Burdens of Proof, Prosecution, Corpus Delicti Doctrine, Types of Evidence, Demonstrative Evidence, Admissibility, Demonstrative Evidence, Forfeitures & Penalties, Postconviction Proceedings, Motions for New Trial