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Any inference that everyone on the scene of a crime is a party to it must disappear if the government informer singles out the guilty person.
Respondent and an informer were in an automobile, the driver of which was suspected of selling counterfeit gasoline ration coupons. When approached by federal and New York state officers, the informer had counterfeit gasoline ration coupons in his hand and stated that he had obtained them from the driver. Without previous information implicating respondent, and without a warrant, the state officer arrested respondent and the driver, but did not search the car or state the charge on which respondent was arrested. At the police station, respondent was searched and counterfeit gasoline ration coupons were found on his person. On the evidence thus obtained, respondent was convicted of possession of counterfeit gasoline ration coupons in violation of § 301 of the Second War Powers Act. Respondent’s conviction was reversed by the Circuit Court of Appeals, holding that the respondent's warrantless arrest and search was illegal. Certiorari was granted.
Was the respondent’s warrantless arrest and search illegal, thereby necessitating his acquittal?
The Court held that a person, by mere presence in a suspected car, did not lose immunities from search of his person to which he would otherwise be entitled. The Court further held that inferences that everyone on the scene of a crime was a party to it must disappear if the government informer singled out the guilty person. In this case, respondent was not singled out. The Court further held an inference of probable cause from a failure to discuss charges with arresting officers was unwarranted. The presumption of innocence was not lost or impaired by neglect of respondent to argue with a policeman. Accordingly, the judgment of the appeals court was affirmed.