Lustig v. United States, 338 U.S. 74 (1949)

Author: Justice Reed

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Lustig v. United States, 338 U.S. 74 (1949)


My understanding of the rule as to the use of evidence in a federal criminal trial obtained by state officers through a search and seizure conducted by them under state authority is this.

While it is true that the mere participation in a state search of one who is a federal officer does not render it a federal undertaking, the court must be vigilant to scrutinize the attendant facts with an eye to detect and a hand to prevent violations of the Constitution by circuitous and indirect methods.

Byars v. United States, 273 U.S. 28, 32. In the Byars opinion, this Court went on to say that the federal government had the right

to avail itself of evidence improperly seized by state officers operating entirely upon their own account. But the rule is otherwise when the federal government itself, through its agents acting as such, participates in the wrongful search and seizure.

273 U.S. at 33. This is the rule which the Court reaffirms today.

It is the application of that rule to the facts of this case which causes me to dissent. Although it may seem only a difference of view as to the facts of a particular case, it becomes important in the administration of the criminal law. If federal peace officers are to be restricted in their duties to the extent indicated in the opinion, they should have full warning so that their work in detecting crime will not be frustrated through the officer’s inadvertence in accepting evidence turned over to him by state officers. The trial court found that Greene did not participate in the search and seizure. We should accept that finding. If we undertake to reexamine the testimony to see whether there was participation by Greene, I should reach the same conclusion as the lower courts did.

In my view, Secret Service Agent Greene did not participate in this search and seizure, and the motion to suppress the evidence obtained was properly overruled in the trial court, and the trial court’s action was properly sustained in the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

The Court accepts

as a fact that Greene did not request the search, that, beyond indicating to the local police that there was something wrong, he was not the moving force of the search, and that the search was not undertaken by the police to help enforcement of a federal law.

The record shows clearly to me that Agent Greene did not participate in the search and seizure.

Only state police entered the room of Lustig, opened his brief cases, and found all the articles useful in counterfeiting. It was not until after all the articles were found that were offered in evidence that Agent Greene was called.{1} It was stated thus in the brief for appellant:

When he arrived at the hotel, all of the material that had been taken out of the brief case was on the bed. Capt. Koerner and Sgt. Murphy then put the exhibits back in the brief cases.

This was Greene’s testimony. Greene examined the articles that had been taken by the state police from the satchels. He then left the room and returned as Lustig and his companion Reynolds were in the act of opening the door to Room 402, where the state officers were. The state officers then arrested Reynolds and Lustig on a warrant for a state offense. The prisoners were searched. On Reynolds, a $100 bill was found that was shown to Agent Greene by Captain Koerner.{2} The $100 bill had not been tampered with, was not evidence against Lustig, and has nothing to do with the case against him.

Unless the fact that Agent Greene looked at the evidence secured by the state police before it was removed from the room involves the United States in the search and seizure, the lower courts were correct in holding that Agent Greene had no part in the search and seizure. Greene did not "share in the critical examination of the uncovered articles as the physical search proceeded."{3} The search had ended before he came into the room. The subsequent arrest, examination, and the $100 bill found on Reynolds had nothing to do with the alleged unlawful search and seizure. The search and seizure had run its course, and we should not hold that the appearance of a federal officer at the place of unlawful search and seizure after evidence has been found makes him a participant in the act. This evidence should not be suppressed, and the conviction of Lustig should be affirmed.


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Chicago: Reed, "Reed, J., Concurring," Lustig v. United States, 338 U.S. 74 (1949) in 338 U.S. 74 338 U.S. 81–338 U.S. 83. Original Sources, accessed September 30, 2022,

MLA: Reed. "Reed, J., Concurring." Lustig v. United States, 338 U.S. 74 (1949), in 338 U.S. 74, pp. 338 U.S. 81–338 U.S. 83. Original Sources. 30 Sep. 2022.

Harvard: Reed, 'Reed, J., Concurring' in Lustig v. United States, 338 U.S. 74 (1949). cited in 1949, 338 U.S. 74, pp.338 U.S. 81–338 U.S. 83. Original Sources, retrieved 30 September 2022, from