Underwood v. State: Georgia’s High Water Mark in the Protection of the Basic Rights of Criminal Suspects


Seventy years ago the Georgia Court of Appeals decided the case of Underwood v. State, 13 Ga. App. 206, 78 S. E. 1103 (1913). The facts of the Underwood case were dramatic but simple. Suspecting that the defendant Underwood was selling liquor in violation of the state\u27s prohibition law, Americus police went to Underwood\u27s store and illegally searched the premises without a warrant; they arrested Underwood and took him to the police barracks illegally and without a warrant; they forcibly and against his will seized certain keys from Underwood\u27s person; and they then returned to the store where using the keys they opened Underwood\u27s safe and found 114 pints of whiskey. Thereafter Underwood was tried and convicted, the principal evidence against him consisting of police testimony as to the finding of the liquor in the defendant\u27s safe in his store. The holding in Underwood was simple. The Court of Appeals unanimously reversed the conviction on the grounds that the illegality of the arrest rendered the evidence obtained thereby inadmissible under the state constitutional self-incrimination privilege

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