Andresen v. Maryland

In Andresen v. Maryland, 427 U.S. 463, 96 S.Ct. 2737, 49 L.Ed.2d 627 (1976), the Supreme Court had occasion to consider whether warrants similar to the one here under consideration failed to comply with the Fourth Amendment. The defendant in that case, an attorney under investigation for fraudulent real estate settlements, contended that language included in the warrants destroyed their otherwise specific nature by permitting the search and seizure of evidence of any crime. The warrants, issued for defendant's law offices, called for the seizure of: '(T)he following items pertaining to sale, purchase, settlement and conveyance of lot 13, block T, Potomac Woods subdivision, Montgomery County, Maryland: showing or tending to show a fraudulent intent, and/or knowledge as elements of the crime of false pretenses, in violation of Article 27, Section 140, of the Annotated Code of Maryland, 1957 Edition, as amended and revised, together with other fruits, instrumentalities and evidence of crime at this (time) unknown.' (Id., at 480 n.10, 96 S.Ct. at 2748.) The defendant contended that the high-lighted language rendered the warrant "general". The Court rejected this argument, holding that the phrase should be read as authorizing only the search for and seizure of evidence relating to the crime of false pretenses: The challenged phrase is not a separate sentence. Instead, it appears in each warrant at the end of a sentence containing a lengthy list of specified and particular items to be seized, all pertaining to Lot 13T. We think it clear from the context that the term 'crime' in the warrants refers only to the crime of false pretenses with respect to the sale of Lot 13T. The 'other fruits' clause is one of a series that follows the colon after the word 'Maryland'. All clauses in the series are limited by what precedes that colon, namely, 'items pertaining to lot 13, block T.' The warrants, accordingly, did not authorize the executing officers to conduct a search for evidence of other crimes but only to search for and seize evidence relevant to the crime of false pretenses and Lot 13T. (Id., at 481-82, 96 S.Ct. at 2749.)