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Legal References on Drug Policy

Federal Court Decisions on Drugs by Decade


1900 1910 1920 1930 1940
1950 1960 1970 1980 1990
Year Title and Summary

US Supreme Court

ODOM v. ADERHOLD, WARDEN - October 16, 1940

The constitutional right of accused to be represented by counsel may be waived, and the burden rests upon the petitioner to establish that he did not competently and intelligently waive this constitutional right. Whether there has been an intelligent waiver of the right of counsel depends upon the particular circumstances and surroundings in each case. . . . The waiver of the right will ordinarily be implied where the accused appears without counsel and fails to request that counsel be assigned to him. 

A careful examination of the record fails to reveal that petitioner was denied any of his constitutional rights.

US Supreme Court

YOUNG v. UNITED STATES -  February 2, 1942

1. On review of a conviction in a criminal case, the Government's confession of error, though entitled to great weight, does not relieve the Court of its duty to examine independently the errors confessed. P. 258.

2. The second proviso of 6 of the Harrison Anti-Narcotic Act, as amended, which requires "any manufacturer, producer, compounder, or vendor (including dispensing physicians)" to keep a record of all sales, exchanges, or gifts of certain preparations and remedies, does not apply to physicians administering to patients whom they personally attend. P. 259.

US Supreme Court


A mail-order wholesale drug corporation made sales of morphine sulphate to a physician in unusually large quantities, frequently, and over an extended period. Held, that the evidence, from which it could be inferred that the seller not only knew the physician was selling the drug illegally but intended to cooperate with him therein, was sufficient to sustain the seller's conviction of conspiracy to violate the Harrison Narcotic Act. 

US Court of Appeals


There is no merit in the appellant's contention that she did not get a fair trial because the lower court consolidated the two indictments.

US Court of Appeals


.  .the rather elaborately drawn count does not charge a sale of drugs to a known addict. In essence, the charge is that the drugs were sold to a purchaser for the purpose of satisfying the cravings of unspecified addicts. Under the principles already enunciated there can be no doubt that an indictable offense is thus charged.Obviously, a physician who prescribes drugs in bad faith, not in the course of his professional practice only and for the purpose of satisfying the cravings of drug addicts is guilty of an indictable offense under the statute and the decisions cited above, interpreting it.

We conclude, therefore, that the indictment is sufficient. . . . .

The repeated prescribing of the drug in such quantities and at such intervals was sufficient evidence to raise a serious doubt as to Dr. Brandenburg's good faith. Consequently, we must conclude that the jury believed the physician-patient relationship terminated or that the prescriptions were issued in bad faith by the appellant. For this belief there was sufficient warrant in the proof. . . . .

Asserting an inadvertent and improper presence among the exhibits sent out with the jury, of certain written matter, appellant seeks a new trial. Among the many prescriptions offered in evidence by the government were three which were attached to sheets of paper and pinned together. These bore legends, evidently drafted by government agents, and to the effect that the prescriptions "were purchased" from Dr. Brandenburg and "postdated". Neither counsel noticed these legends. Casual inspection by defense counsel before they went into the evidence did not reveal the typewritten and handwritten hearsay statements. It was not until several days after the jury returned its verdict that appellant's counsel first noticed the existence of the legends. He then brought the matter before the trial judge on motion to set the verdict aside. The court denied the motion. In this, we think he erred: 

US Supreme Court

JOHNSON  v.  UNITED STATES - SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES - No. 329  - Decided: February 2, 1948

1. Where officers detected the odor of burning opium emanating from a hotel room, entered without a search warrant and without knowing who was there, arrested the only occupant, searched the room and found opium and smoking apparatus, the search violated the Fourth Amendment to the Federal Constitution; and a conviction for a violation of the federal narcotic laws based on the evidence thus obtained cannot be sustained. Pp. 11-17.

2. As a general rule, the question when the right of privacy must reasonably yield to the right of search must be decided by a judicial officer, not by a policeman or government enforcement agent. Pp. 13-14.

3. There were no exceptional circumstances in this case sufficient to justify the failure of the officer to obtain a search warrant. Pp. 14-15.

4. It being conceded that the officer did not have probable cause to arrest petitioner until he entered the room and found her to be the sole occupant, the search cannot be sustained as being incident to a valid arrest. Pp. 15-16.

5. The Government cannot at the same time justify an arrest by a search and justify the search by the arrest. Pp. 16-19.

6. An officer gaining access to private living quarters under color of his office and of the law must then have some valid basis in law for the intrusion. P. 17.

US Supreme Court

FRAZIER v. UNITED STATES - December 20, 1948

1. Petitioner was convicted in a federal court in the District of Columbia for violating the Harrison Narcotics Act. In the circumstances of this case, he was not denied the trial "by an impartial jury" guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment, although the jury was composed entirely of employees of the Federal Government and one of them and the wife of another were employees of the Treasury Department, but not of its Bureau of Narcotics which administers and enforces the federal narcotics statutes. Pp. 498-514.

2. A motion to strike the entire panel for alleged irregularities in the method of its selection, which was not made until after an entire morning had been consumed in uncompleted efforts to select a jury and which was supported solely by counsel's unsworn statements, without any proof or offer of proof, was without merit. Pp. 503-504.

3. Given 10 arbitrary choices among 22 prospective jurors not disqualified for cause, of whom 13 were government employees and 9 privately engaged, petitioner knowingly rejected by peremptory challenges all 9 of the latter and accepted without challenge all but one of the former. Held : His objection to the resulting jury on the ground that it consisted entirely of government employees was not justified. Pp. 504-512.

4. In view of the D.C. Code (1940) 11-1420, which removed (with specified exceptions) the previously existing disqualification of government employees for jury service in the District of Columbia in criminal and other cases to which the Government is a party, the mere fact of government employment is insufficient to disqualify a juror who is otherwise qualified. United States v. Wood, 299 U.S. 123. Pp. 508-512.

5. Where petitioner knew that the wife of one juror was employed by the Treasury and knew that another juror was a government employee but failed to inquire as to the exact nature of the latter's employment and failed to challenge either juror while the jury was being selected, petitioner's challenge to these two jurors in a motion for a new trial was rightly overruled. Pp. 512-514.