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NARDONE V. UNITED STATES, 302 U. S. 379 (1937)

U.S. Supreme Court

Nardone v. United States, 302 U.S. 379 (1937)

Nardone v. United States


Argued November 15, 1937

Decided December 20, 1937

302 U.S. 379


1. In view of the provisions of § 605 of the Communications Act of 1934, 47 U.S.C. § 605, evidence obtained by federal agents by tapping telephone wires and intercepting messages is not admissible in a criminal trial in the federal district court. P. 302 U. S. 382.

2. In the provision of § 605 of the Communications Act of 1934 that

"no person not being authorized by the sender shall intercept any communication and divulge or publish the existence, contents, substance, purport, effect or meaning of such intercepted communication to any person; . . . ,"

the phrase "no person" embraces federal agents engaged in the detection of crime, and to "divulge" an intercepted communication to "any person" embraces testimony in a court as to the contents of such a communication. P. 302 U. S. 383.

3. Evidence in congressional committee reports indicating that the major purpose of the Federal Communications Act was the transfer of jurisdiction over wire and radio communication to the newly constituted Federal Communications Commission, and other circumstances in the legislative history of the Act, held insufficient to negative the plain mandate of the provisions of § 605 forbidding wiretapping. P. 302 U. S. 382.

4. Whether wiretapping as an aid in the detection and punishment of crime should be permitted to federal agents is a question of policy for the determination of the Congress. P. 302 U. S. 383.

5. The canon that the general words of a statute do not include the Government or affect its rights unless that construction be clear and indisputable from the language of the Act is inapplicable to this case, but applicable is the principle that the sovereign is embraced by general words of a statute intended to prevent injury and wrong. Pp. 302 U. S. 383-384.

90 F.2d 630 reversed.

Certiorari, post, p. 668, to review a judgment affirming a judgment of conviction on an indictment charging violation of the Anti-Smuggling Act and conspiracy.

Page 302 U. S. 380

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