Hester v. United States, 265 U.S. 445 (1924)

In this case, the plaintiff Hester claimed that his rights under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments were violated when he was convicted of illegally concealing distilled liquor. The two officers who made the arrest witnessed Hester exchanging jugs with another man. When pursued, Hester dropped his jug, and the officers determined that the jug contained moonshine whiskey. The officers then searched the house but did not find any whiskey inside the house. The plaintiff claimed that the evidence of the jug was inadmissible because the officers did not have a search warrant.

The opinion of the Court, written by Justice Holmes, held that there was no illegal search and seizure because Hester himself disclosed the jug when he dropped it in the field. Even though the examination of the jug took place on land owned by Hester’s father, the Court ruled that the Fourth Amendment protection of ‘‘persons, houses, papers, and effects’’ did not extend to open fields. This became the ‘‘open fields’’ doctrine that has been a precedent for numerous cases involving searches on property outside the immediate surrounds of the home. Oliver v. United States (1984) relied on this precedent to conclude that a field where marijuana was growing was not a protected space under the Fourth Amendment.

LYNNE GARCIA

References and Further Reading

  • Cases that upheld the ‘‘open fields’’ doctrine: United States v. Dunn, 480 U.S. 294 (1987); California v. Ciraolo, 476 U.S. 207 (1986); Florida v. Riley, 488 U.S. 445 (1989); California v. Greenwood, 486 U.S. 35 (1988).
  • Landmark cases involving wire tapping that reference Hester v. United States: Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (1928); Katz v. United States 389 U.S. 347 (1967).
  • The Meaning of the Federal Rule on Evidence Illegally Obtained, Yale Law Journal 36 (1927): 36:536–42.
  • Murchinson, Kenneth M., Prohibition and the Fourth Amendment: A New Look at Some Old Cases. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 73 (1982): 2:471–532.

Case Studies and Statutes Cited

  • Oliver v. United States, 466 U.S. 170 (1984)

See also Search (General Definition)

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