386 U.S. 300 (1967), 159, McCray v. Illinois

Docket Nº:No. 159
Citation:386 U.S. 300, 87 S.Ct. 1056, 18 L.Ed.2d 62
Party Name:McCray v. Illinois
Case Date:March 20, 1967
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 300

386 U.S. 300 (1967)

87 S.Ct. 1056, 18 L.Ed.2d 62




No. 159

United States Supreme Court

March 20, 1967

Argued January 10-11, 1967



Following receipt of information from an informer, two Chicago policemen made a warrantless arrest of the petitioner for possessing narcotics. At the pretrial hearing on petitioner's motion to suppress the evidence which was found on his person, the officers testified that: the informant had told them that petitioner "was selling narcotics and had narcotics on his person" and the area where petitioner could then be found; they found him in that vicinity; after pointing petitioner out, the informant departed; they arrested petitioner and searched him in their vehicle and found the narcotics on his person. The officers also testified that, during the one to two years, respectively, that they had known the informant, he had frequently furnished accurate information about narcotics activities which had led to many convictions. Petitioner requested the informant's identity, and the State, relying on the testimonial privilege under Illinois law against such disclosure, objected. The State's objections were sustained, petitioner's motion to suppress was denied, and he was thereafter convicted upon the basis of the evidence seized. The judgment of conviction was affirmed by the State Supreme Court, which held the arrest lawful and not vitiated by the application of the "informer's privilege."


1. Upon the basis of the circumstances related by the officers, they had probable cause to make the arrest and the search incidental thereto. P. 304.

2. A state court is under no absolute duty under either the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or under the Sixth Amendment as incorporated therein to require disclosure of an informer's identity at a pretrial hearing held for the purpose of determining only the question of probable cause for an arrest or search where, as here, there was ample evidence in an open and adversary proceeding that the informer was known to the officers to be reliable and that they made the arrest in good faith upon the information he supplied. Pp. 305-314.

33 Ill.2d 66, 210 N.E.2d 161, affirmed.

Page 301

STEWART, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion the Court.

The petitioner was arrested in Chicago, Illinois, on the morning of January 16, 1964, for possession of narcotics. The Chicago police officers who made the arrest found a package containing heroin on his person, and he was indicted for its unlawful possession. Prior to trial, he filed a motion to suppress the heroin as evidence against him, claiming that the police had acquired it in an unlawful search and seizure in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. See Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643. After a hearing, the court denied the motion, and the petitioner was subsequently convicted upon the evidence of the heroin the arresting officers had found in his possession. The judgment of conviction was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Illinois,1 and we granted certiorari to consider the petitioner's claim that the hearing on his motion to suppress was constitutionally defective.2

The petitioner's arrest occurred near the intersection of 49th Street and Calumet Avenue at about seven in the morning. At the hearing on the motion to suppress, he testified that, up until a half hour before he was arrested, he had been at "a friend's house" about a block away,

Page 302

that, after leaving the friend's house, he had "walked with a lady from 48th to 48th and South Park," and that, as he approached 49th Street and Calumet Avenue, "[t]he Officers stopped me going through the alley." "The officers," he said, "did not show me a search warrant for my person or an arrest warrant for my arrest." He said the officers then searched him and found the narcotics in [87 S.Ct. 1058] question.3 The petitioner did not identify the "friend" or the "lady," and neither of them appeared as a witness.

The arresting offices then testified. Officer Jackson stated that he and two fellow officers had had a conversation with an informant on the morning of January 16 in their unmarked police car. The officer said that the informant had told them that the petitioner, with whom Jackson was acquainted,

was selling narcotics, and had narcotics on his person, and that he could be found in the vicinity of 47th and Calumet at this particular time.

Jackson said that he and his fellow officers drove to that vicinity in the police car and that, when they spotted the petitioner, the informant pointed him out and then departed on foot. Jackson stated that the officers observed the petitioner walking with a woman, then separating from her and meeting briefly with a man, then proceeding alone, and finally, after seeing the police car, "hurriedly walk[ing] between two buildings." "At this point," Jackson testified,

my partner and myself got out of the car and informed him we had information he had narcotics on his person, placed him in the police vehicle at this point.

Jackson stated that the officers then searched

Page 303

the petitioner and found the heroin in a cigarette package. Jackson testified that he had been acquainted with the informant for approximately a year, that, during this period, the informant had supplied him with information about narcotics activities "fifteen, sixteen times at least," that the information had proved to be accurate and had resulted in numerous arrests and conviction. On cross-examination, Jackson was even more specific as to the informant's previous reliability, giving the names of people who had been convicted of narcotics violation as the result of information the informant had supplied. When Jackson was asked for the informant's name and address, counsel for the State objected, and the objection was sustained by the court.4

Officer Arnold gave substantially the same account of the circumstances of the petitioner's arrest and search, stating that the informant had told the officers that the petitioner "was selling narcotics and had narcotics on his

Page 304

person now in the vicinity of 47th and Calumet." The informant, Arnold testified, "said he had observed [the petitioner] selling narcotics to various people, meaning various addicts, in the [87 S.Ct. 1059] area of 47th and Calumet." Arnold testified that he had known the informant "roughly two years," that the informant had given him information concerning narcotics "20 or 25 times," and that the information had resulted in convictions. Arnold too was asked on cross-examination for the informant's name and address, and objections to these questions were sustained by the court.

There can be no doubt, upon the basis of the circumstances related by Officers Jackson and Arnold, that there was probable cause to sustain the arrest and incidental search in this case. Draper v. United States, 358 U.S. 307. Unlike the situation in Beck v. Ohio, 379 U.S. 89, each of the officers in this case described with specificity "what the informer actually said, and why the officer thought the information was credible." 379 U.S. at 97. The testimony of each of the officers informed the court of the

underlying circumstances from which the informant concluded that the narcotics were where he claimed they were, and some of the underlying circumstances from which the officer concluded that the informant . . . was "credible" or his information "reliable."

Aguilar v. Texas, 378 U.S. 108, 114. See United States v. Ventresca, 380 U.S. 102. Upon the basis of those circumstances, along with the officers' personal observations of the petitioner, the court was fully justified in holding that, at the time the officers made the arrest,

the facts and circumstances within their knowledge and of which they had reasonably trustworthy information were sufficient to warrant a prudent man in believing that the petitioner had committed or was committing an offense. Brinegar v. United States, 33 U.S. 160, 175-176; Henry v. United States, 361 U.S. 98, 102.


Page 305

v. Ohio, supra, at 91. It is the petitioner's claim, however, that, even though the officers' sworn testimony fully supported a finding of probable cause for the arrest and search, the state court nonetheless violated the Constitution when it sustained objections to the petitioner's questions a to the identity of the informant. We cannot agree.

In permitting the officers to withhold the informant's identity, the court was following well settled Illinois law. When the issue is not guilt or innocence, but, as here, the question of probable cause for an arrest or search, the Illinois Supreme Court has held that police officer need not invariably be required to disclose an informant's identity if the trial judge is convinced, by evidence submitted in open court and subject to cross-examination, that the officers did rely in good faith upon credible information supplied by a reliable informant.5 This Illinois evidentiary rule is consistent with the law of many other States.6 In California, the State Legislature in 1965 enacted a statute adopting just such a rule for cases like the one before us:

[I]n any preliminary hearing, criminal trial, or other criminal proceeding, [87 S.Ct. 1060] for violation of any provision of Division 10 (commencing with Section 11000) of the Health and Safety Code, evidence of information

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communicated to a peace officer by a confidential informant, who is not a material witness to the guilt or innocence of the accused of the offense charged, shall be admissible on the issue of reasonable cause to make an arrest or search without requiring that the name or identity of the informant be disclosed if the judge or magistrate is satisfied, based upon evidence produced in open court, out of the presence of the jury, that...

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