Andresen v. Maryland

427 U.S. 463 (1976)


Andresen (D) was an attorney specializing in real estate settlements. He became a person of interest for a transaction involving a Lot in the Potomac Woods subdivision. D, acting as settlement attorney, had defrauded Standard-Young Associates, the purchaser of Lot 13T. D represented that the property was free of liens and no title insurance was necessary. D knew that there were two outstanding liens on the property. The lienholders threatened to foreclose their liens and had forced a halt to the purchaser's construction on the property. When confronted with this information, he responded by issuing, as an agent of a title insurance company, a title policy guaranteeing clear title to the property. D defrauded that insurance company by requiring it to pay the outstanding liens. P applied for warrants to search D's law office and the separate office of Mount Vernon Development Corporation, of which petitioner was incorporator, sole shareholder, resident agent, and director. The application sought permission to search for specified documents pertaining to the sale and conveyance of Lot 13T. D was present during the search of his law office and was free to move about. About 2% and 3% of the files in the office were seized along with than 5% of the corporation's files at the other office. D was indicted for false pretenses. D moved to suppress the seized documents. The only item seized from the corporation's offices that was not returned by the State or suppressed was a file labeled 'Potomac Woods General.' A number of items were also suppressed from the law offices. The court then ruled that all the rest of the items not suppressed or returned would be admitted into evidence. The searches and seizures did not force D to be a witness against himself because he had not been required to produce the seized documents, nor would he be compelled to authenticate them and the search warrants were based on probable cause. The State proved its case primarily by public documents. A number of the seized items were used as well related to the transaction involving Lot 13T. D was convicted. D appealed, and four of the five false-pretenses counts were reversed because the indictment had failed to allege intent to defraud, a necessary element of the state offense. Only one count for false pretenses and the three counts of misappropriation by a fiduciary remained. The Court rejected D's Fourth and Fifth Amendment Claims. The warrants were supported by probable cause, that they did not authorize a general search in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and that the items admitted into evidence against D were within the scope of the warrants or were otherwise properly seized. The search had not violated D's Fifth Amendment rights because D had not been compelled to do anything. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.