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Chambers v. Maroney, 399 U.S. 42 (1970)


Petitioner was one of four men arrested after the auto in which they were riding was stopped by police shortly after an armed robbery of a service station. The arrests resulted from information supplied by the service station attendant and bystanders. The car was driven to a police station, where a search disclosed two revolvers, one loaded with dumdum bullets, and cards bearing the name of an attendant at another service station who had been robbed at gunpoint a week earlier. In a warrant-authorized search of petitioner’s home the next day, police found and seized ammunition, including dumdum bullets similar to those found in one of the guns in the car. At his first trial, which ended in a mistrial, petitioner was represented by a Legal Aid Society attorney. Another Legal Aid Society attorney, who represented him at the second trial, did not confer with petitioner until a few minutes before that trial began. The materials taken from the car and the bullets seized from petitioner’s home were introduced in evidence, and petitioner was convicted of robbery of both service stations. Petitioner did not take a direct appeal, but sought, unsuccessfully, a writ of habeas corpus in the Pennsylvania courts and in the federal courts, challenging the admissibility of the materials taken from the car and the ammunition seized in his home, and claiming that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. The Court of Appeals dealt with the claim that the attorney’s lack of preparation resulted in the failure to exclude the guns and ammunition by finding harmless error in the admission of the bullets and ruling that the materials seized from the car were admissible in evidence, and concluded that the claim of prejudice from substitution of counsel was without substantial basis.


1. The warrantless search of the automobile was valid, and the materials seized therefrom were properly introduced in evidence. Pp.  399 U. S. 46-52.

(a) The search, made at the police station some time after the arrest, cannot be justified as incident to the arrest. Pp.  399 U. S. 46-47. 

Page 399 U. S. 43

(b) Just as there was probable cause to arrest the occupants of the car, there was probable cause to search the car for guns and stolen money. Pp.  399 U. S. 47-48.

(c) If there is probable cause, an automobile, because of its mobility, may be searched without a warrant in circumstances that would not justify a warrantless search of a house or office.  Carroll v. United States, 267 U. S. 132. Pp.  399 U. S. 48-51.

(d) Given probable cause, there is no difference under the Fourth Amendment between (1) seizing and holding a car before presenting the issue of probable cause to a magistrate, and (2) carrying out an immediate warrantless search. Pp.  399 U. S. 51-52.

2. The findings of the District Court and the Court of Appeals that, if there was error in admitting in evidence the ammunition seized from petitioner’s house, it was harmless error beyond a reasonable doubt, are affirmed on the basis of the Court’s review of the record. Pp.  399 U. S. 52-53.

3. Based on a careful examination of the state court record, the Court of Appeals’ judgment denying a hearing a to the adequacy of representation by counsel, is not disturbed. Pp.  399 U. S. 53-54.

408 F.2d 1186, affirmed.