Frisbie v. Collins

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Frisbie v. Collins
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued January 28, 1952
Decided March 10, 1952
Full case name Frisbie, warden v. Shirley Collins
Citations 342 U.S. 519 (more)
72 S.Ct. 509; 96 L.Ed. 541
Prior history Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
There is nothing in the Constitution that requires a court to permit a guilty person rightfully convicted to escape justice because he was brought to trial against his will.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Fred M. Vinson
Associate Justices
Hugo Black · Stanley F. Reed
Felix Frankfurter · William O. Douglas
Robert H. Jackson · Harold H. Burton
Tom C. Clark · Sherman Minton
Case opinions
Majority Black
Laws applied
Federal Kidnapping Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1201

Frisbie v. Collins, 342 U.S. 519 (1952), was a decision by the United States Supreme Court, which held that kidnapping of suspects by State authorities is constitutional. The defendant was tried in Michigan after being abducted by Michigan authorities in Chicago, Illinois. The case was related to the previous case of Ker v. Illinois (1886). Both cases together created the Ker-Frisbie Doctrine, which is used to validate the reasoning behind seemingly illegal and unconstitutional extradition and abduction from other countries or from state to state, on the basis of a prosecution being brought against the individual.

Ker v. Illinois[edit]

Ker v. Illinois was decided in 1886. It was the first case that brought up the abduction by United States authorities of criminal suspects from other countries for cases in America. The case was about a man named Frederick M. Ker who was a U.S. citizen living in Peru. He was trying to avoid the charges of larceny and embezzlement. The US president at the time, President Chester Arthur, sent an agent to work with Peruvian authorities to file for extradition of Ker from Peru back to the US. However, the agent from decided to forcibly abduct Ker before the extradition was processed. Ker fought in court saying that the US committed extraterritorial abduction. The US did not actually go against the extradition treaty.[1] The opposition fought against it however the Supreme Court ruled, "such forcible abduction is no sufficient reason why the party should not answer when brought within the jurisdiction of the court which has the right to try him for such an offence, and presents no valid objection to his trial in such court”.[2]

Governmental vocabulary[edit]

The Frisbie v. Collins case involved terms and laws. Two laws are the Federal Kidnapping Act and the Fourteenth Amendment (due process of law). The Federal Kidnapping Act, or otherwise known at the Lindbergh Law or the Little Lindbergh Law, states that if kidnappers cross state lines then Federal law enforcement can get involved.[3] The Due Process Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment states that as “A fundamental, constitutional guarantee that all legal proceedings will be fair and that one will be given notice of the proceedings and an opportunity to be heard before the government acts to take away one's life, liberty, or property.”[4] In the case of Frisbie v. Collins, the apparent violation was due to how the authorities abducted Shirley Collins, forcibly taking him from Chicago back to Michigan to be tried for murder. When a defendant files for procedural due process, the Court needs to determine whether or not “life, liberty, or property” was taken or hindered while the authoritative procedure was taking place. In the case of Collins, the Court decided it wasn’t, due to him being a suspect in a crime.

Another aspect of governmental vocabulary is writ of habeas corpus, a Latin term when a suspect is delivered to court. Writ means court order, and habeas corpus means 'having the body'. Overall it applies when an individual or governmental official has obtained and delivered an individual to the court, the court then decides the legitimacy of how they were obtained and delivered. From this it is decided if the individual should be released.[5]

Opinion of the Court[edit]

The case was decided by March 1952. It was a follow up on the Ker v. Illinois (1886) which was about the same topic. Both cases were about the abduction and extradition of suspects for cases from different states. In the Collins Case, Shirley Collins was abducted from a bus station in Chicago, Illinois due to being a suspect in a murder case in Michigan. The authorities from Michigan went to Illinois and forcibly abducted the defendant to take him back to Michigan to get tried for the murder. He claimed that he was forcibly seized, handcuffed and blackjacked (being hit by a short leather club) by the Chicago authorities. Upon being taken to the Chicago police department he was denied counsel and blackjacked again when he refused to return to Michigan to be tried, this time it was by the Michigan and Chicago authorities. This case served as a Supreme Court case because the petitioner Shirley Collins represented himself and filed for writ of habeas corpus trying to get his release on the grounds of being unlawfully detained.[6] It is also brought up on the basis that the Michigan police officers were out of their jurisdiction when they crossed state lines. It was argued that this was unlawful and did not come under the due process of law or the federal kidnapping laws. However, the Court decided against Collins. The Court had the power to try a person for a crime, no matter the fact that he was forcibly abducted outside of jurisdiction thereby technically violating the Federal Kidnapping Act. The Due Process was satisfied when the suspect was fairly informed about the charges that were being brought against him and when he received a fair trial all before he was convicted.[7]

Ker-Frisbie Doctrine[edit]

From these two cases a new doctrine was created called the Ker-Frisbie Doctrine. Overall it states that criminal defendants that are being tried have to be in court, and it does not matter how the authorities get them there. This has been and is used in both domestic and international cases to defend the abduction and extradition by authorities.[8] However, over the years while courts have continued to uphold and use the doctrine itself, limitations on it have been created. After the two original cases that arose the doctrine, the first case that brought it up was in 1974, United States v. Toscanino. In this case, Toscanino was forcibly abducted from Italy and taken back to America, due to being accused of intent to smuggle narcotics into the United States. Uruguayan police forcibly abducted the Italian, drugged him, and gave him to the American authorities. Once in US custody, authorities tortured him, through electrocution, starvation, and flushing his eyes and nose with alcohol. Toscanino was convicted in American court. The limitation added due to this case is the fact that something was added to due process; “shocks of conscience.”[9] The limitation is explaining that it is no longer under due process if the action “seems grossly unjust to the observer.” Explaining that if the abduction is accompanied by some sort of aggressive and torturous action, like for Toscanino, then it does in fact go against due process of law.[10]

Relevance today[edit]

There are two recent cases that are related to the Frisbie v Collins case, in that the Ker Frisbie Doctrine apply. The first of them being United States v. Yunis, which was decided in 1991. This case’s defendant, Yunis, was convicted of conspiracy, aircraft piracy, and hostage taking. Yunis plus four other men hijacked a plane on its way to Beirut, Lebanon, carrying various military level weapons. Ultimately they wanted to use the plane to get to a conference being held in Tunis, they wanted all Palestinians out of Lebanon. The defendant ultimately admitted to the crime.[11] Overall, while the defendant did in fact accuse the United States of not being within jurisdiction and illegal arrest, the court decided that with the circumstances of the threats against American officials who were at the conference, that gave them the power to act.[12] The next case is United States v. Alvarez-Machain. This case was created once again on the basis that the accused was abducted from one country and brought to another, in this case it was Alvarez-Machain and he was abducted from Mexico. The accused stated that the entire arrest was going against the extradition treaty between Mexico and the United States. The decision held that it was in fact not illegal and contingent on the need to prosecute the individual for a crime. The treaty does not in itself prevent any abduction.[13] These two cases help validate of the actual decision of the Frisbie v Collins case, in that even seemingly illegal abduction is not a valid reason to discredit the entire prosecution and crime that was convicted. The Ker-Frisbie Doctrine is still valid.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Reid, Herbert O. (1956). "Interstate Rendition and Illegal Return of Fugitives". Howard Law Journal. 2: 76. ISSN 0018-6813. 
  • Scott, Austin W., Jr. (1953). "Criminal Jurisdiction of a State over a Defendant Based upon Presence Secured by Force or Fraud". Minnesota Law Review. 37: 91. 

External links[edit]


  1. ^ McNeal, Gregory S., and Brian J. Field. "Snatch-and-grab ops: justifying extraterritorial abduction." Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems, Winter 2007, 491+. Academic OneFile (accessed October 24, 2016).
  2. ^ "Ker-Frisbie Doctrine Law & Legal Definition." Accessed October 25, 2016.
  3. ^ "Federal Kidnapping Act – Kidnapping." Accessed October 25, 2016.
  4. ^ Collins Dictionary of Law. S.v. "due process of law." Retrieved October 18, 2016 from
  5. ^ Collins Dictionary of Law. S.v. "writ of habeas corpus." Retrieved October 27, 2016 from
  6. ^ United States Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit. "189 F. 2d 464 - Collins v. Frisbie." 189 F. 2d 464 - Collins v. Frisbie. Accessed October 25, 2016.
  7. ^ .343 U.S. 937; 72 S. Ct. 768; 96 L. Ed. 1344; 1952 U.S. LEXIS 2184. Date Accessed: 2016/10/25.
  8. ^ "Ker-Frisbie Doctrine Law & Legal Definition." Accessed October 25, 2016.
  9. ^ McNeal, Gregory S., and Brian J. Field. "Snatch-and-grab ops: justifying extraterritorial abduction." Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems, Winter 2007, 491+. Academic OneFile (accessed October 24, 2016).
  10. ^ "Shocks the Conscience | Wex Legal Dictionary ..." Accessed October 25, 2016.
  11. ^ "United States v. Yunis Case Brief - Law School Case Briefs." Accessed October 25, 2016.
  12. ^ "U.S. v. YUNIS." LEAGLE. Accessed October 25, 2016. v. YUNIS.
  13. ^ "United States v. Alvarez-Machain | Casebriefs." Accessed October 25, 2016.