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Nardone v. United States (1939) Ponente: Frankfurter, J.


1. In Nardone et al. v. United States (1937), Frank C. Nardone and others were tried,
convicted & sentenced, in separate counts, the smuggling of alcohol, possession and concealment of the smuggled alcohol, and conspiracy to smuggle and conceal it. During the trial, despite PETs’ objections, federal agents testified to the substance of petitioners' interstate communications overheard by the witnesses who had intercepted the messages while tapping telephone wires. The trial court admitted the evidence. The US Supreme Court, in reversing the trial court and remanding the case to the District Court (for further proceedings) construed Section 605 of the Federal Communications Act as including federal agents when it provided 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.” Hence the testimony of the federal agents on the intercepted messages of PETs were procured in violation of the said provision/law.

2. In the present case, there was a new trial and in such trial, the trial judge refused to
allow the accused to examine the prosecution as to the uses to which it had put the information which Nardone v. United States (1937) found to have vitiated the original conviction. The trial court ended up convicting PETs. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction. Hence PET’s appeal to the US Supreme Court.


1. Whether or not § 605 merely interdicts the introduction into evidence in a federal trial
of intercepted telephone conversations, leaving the prosecution free to make every other use of the proscribed evidence? Phrased differently, Whether or not, derivative use of (previously held) inadmissible evidence is allowed? -> NO.


1. No. In a prosecution in a federal court, evidence procured by tapping wires
in violation of the Communications Act of 1934 is inadmissible. This applies not only to the intercepted conversations themselves, but also, by implication, to evidence procured through the use of knowledge gained from such conversations.

a. The result of the holding by the trial court is to reduce the scope of § 605 to
exclusion of the exact words heard through forbidden interceptions, allowing these interceptions every derivative use that they may serve. Such a

they may be proved like any others. Dispositive: The judgment must be reversed and remanded to the District Court for further proceedings in conformity with this opinion. iii. v. The US SC in this case cites a sensible way in which to deal with a situation in such a way that it would be fair to the intent of the law and to the purposes of criminal law: i. To forbid the direct use of methods thus characterized. - Vanessa Arrha De Leon . but that it shall not be used at all.” d. b. it is the burden of the accused to prove to the trial court's satisfaction that wiretapping was unlawfully employed. If knowledge of them is gained from an independent source.reading of § 605 would largely stultify the policy which compelled the SC’s decision in Nardone v. ii. In the first instance. United States: “The essence of a provision forbidding the acquisition of evidence in a certain way is that not merely evidence so acquired shall not be used before the court. to the accused to prove that a substantial portion of the case against him was a fruit of the poisonous tree. but to put no curb on their full indirect use. however closely confined.” AND “the facts improperly obtained do not become sacred and inaccessible. would only invite the very methods deemed "inconsistent with ethical standards and destructive of personal liberty." c. but the knowledge gained by the Government's own wrong cannot be used by it simply because it is used derivatively. United States (1937). Note: This is the case where the US Supreme Court first used the term fruit of the poisonous tree. Silverthorne Lumber Co. Once that is established the trial judge must give opportunity. The government then has the opportunity to convince the trial court that their proof has an independent origin.