378 U.S. 108 (1964), 548, Aguilar v. Texas

Docket Nº:No. 548
Citation:378 U.S. 108, 84 S.Ct. 1509, 12 L.Ed.2d 723
Party Name:Aguilar v. Texas
Case Date:June 15, 1964
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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378 U.S. 108 (1964)

84 S.Ct. 1509, 12 L.Ed.2d 723

Aguilar

v.

Texas

No. 548

United States Supreme Court

June 15, 1964

Argued March 25-26, 1964

CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS OF TEXAS

Syllabus

The affidavit given by police officers to obtain a state search warrant stated that:

Affiants have received reliable information from a credible person and do believe that heroin . . . and other narcotics . . . are being kept at the above described premises for the purpose of sale and use contrary to the provisions of the law.

The affidavit provided no further information concerning either the undisclosed informant or the reliability of the information. The warrant was issued, a search made, and the evidence obtained was admitted at the trial at which petitioner was found guilty of possessing heroin.

Held:

1. The standard of reasonableness for obtaining a search warrant is the same under the Fourth and the Fourteenth Amendments. Ker v. California, 374 U.S. 23, followed. P. 110.

2. Although an affidavit supporting a search warrant may be based on hearsay information and need not reflect the direct personal observations of the affiant, the magistrate must be informed of some of the underlying circumstances relied on by the person providing the information and some of the underlying circumstances from which the affiant concluded that the informant, whose identity was not disclosed, was creditable or his information reliable. Giordenello v. United States, 357 U.S. 480, followed. Pp. 110-115.

172 Tex.Cr.R. 629, 631, 362 S.W.2d 111, 112, reversed and remanded.

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GOLDBERG, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE GOLDBERG delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents questions concerning the constitutional requirements for obtaining a state search warrant.

Two Houston police officers applied to a local Justice of the Peace for a warrant to search for narcotics in petitioner's home. In support of their application, the officers submitted an affidavit which, in relevant part, recited that:

Affiants have received reliable information from a credible person and do believe that heroin, marijuana, barbiturates and other narcotics and narcotic paraphernalia are being kept at the above described premises for the purpose of sale and use contrary to the provisions of the law.1

The search warrant was issued.

In executing the warrant, the local police, along with federal officers, announced at petitioner's door that they

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were police with a warrant. Upon hearing a commotion within the house, the officers forced their way into the house and seized petitioner in the act of attempting to dispose of a packet of narcotics.

At his trial in the state court, petitioner, through his attorney, objected to the introduction of evidence obtained as a result of the execution of the warrant. The objections were overruled, and the evidence admitted. Petitioner was convicted of illegal possession of heroin, and sentenced to serve 20 years in the state penitentiary.2 On appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the conviction was affirmed, 172 Tex.Cr.R. 629, 362 S.W.2d 111, affirmance upheld on rehearing, 172 Tex.Cr.R. 631, 362 S.W.2d 112. We granted a writ of certiorari to consider the important constitutional questions involved. 375 U.S. 812.

In Ker v. California, 374 U.S. 23, we held that the Fourth "Amendment's proscriptions are enforced against the States through the Fourteenth Amendment," and that "the standard of reasonableness is the same under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments." Id. at 33. Although Ker involved a search without a warrant, that case must certainly be read as holding that the standard for obtaining a search warrant is likewise "the same under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments."

An evaluation of the constitutionality of a search warrant should begin with the rule that

the informed and deliberate determinations of magistrates empowered to issue warrants . . . are to be preferred over the hurried action

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of officers . . . who may happen to make arrests.

United States v. Lefkowitz, 285 U.S. 452, 464: The reasons for this rule go to the foundations of the Fourth Amendment. A contrary rule

that evidence sufficient to support a magistrate's disinterested determination to issue a search warrant will justify the officers in making a search without a warrant would reduce the Amendment to a nullity and leave the people's homes secure only in the discretion of police officers.

Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10, 14. Under such a rule, "resort to (warrants) would ultimately be discouraged." Jones v. United States, 362 U.S. 257, 270. Thus, when a search is based upon a magistrate's, rather than a police officer's, determination of probable cause, the reviewing courts will accept evidence of a less "judicially competent or persuasive character than would have justified an officer in acting on his own without a warrant," ibid., and will sustain the judicial determination so long as "there was substantial basis for [the magistrate] to conclude that narcotics were probably present . . . ." Id. at 271. As so well stated by Mr. Justice Jackson:

The point of the Fourth Amendment which often is not grasped by zealous officers is not that it denies law enforcement the support of the usual inferences which reasonable men draw from evidence. Its protection consists in requiring that those inferences be drawn by a neutral and detached magistrate instead of being judged by the officer engaged in the often competitive enterprise of ferreting out crime.

Johnson v. United States, supra, at 13-14.

Although the reviewing court will pay substantial deference to judicial determinations of probable cause, the court must still insist that the magistrate perform his "neutral and detached" function, and not serve merely as a rubber stamp for the police.

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In Nathanson v. United States, 290 U.S. 41, a warrant was issued upon the sworn allegation that the affiant "has cause to suspect and does believe" that certain merchandise was in a specified location. Id. at 44. The Court, noting that the affidavit "went upon a mere affirmation of suspicion and belief, without any statement of adequate supporting facts," id. at 46 (emphasis added), announced the following rule:

Under the Fourth Amendment, an officer may not properly issue a warrant to search a private dwelling unless he can find probable cause therefore from facts or circumstances presented to him under oath or affirmation. Mere affirmance of belief or suspicion is not enough.

Id. at 47. (Emphasis added.)

The Court in Giordenello v. United States, 357 U.S. 480, applied this rule to an affidavit similar to that relied upon here.3 Affiant in that case swore that petitioner "did receive, conceal, etc., narcotic drugs . . . with knowledge of unlawful importation . . . ." Id. at 481. The Court announced the guiding principles to be:

that the inferences from the facts which lead to the complaint "[must] be drawn by a neutral and detached

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magistrate instead of being judged by the officer engaged in the often competitive enterprise of ferreting out crime." Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10, 14. The purpose of the complaint, then, is to enable the appropriate magistrate . . . to determine whether the "probable cause" required to support a warrant exists. The Commissioner must judge for himself the persuasiveness of the facts relied on by a complaining officer to show probable cause. He should not accept without...

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