466 U.S. 727 (1984), 83-1338, Massachusetts v. Upton

Docket Nº:No. 83-1338
Citation:466 U.S. 727, 104 S.Ct. 2085, 80 L.Ed.2d 721
Party Name:Massachusetts v. Upton
Case Date:May 14, 1984
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 727

466 U.S. 727 (1984)

104 S.Ct. 2085, 80 L.Ed.2d 721

Massachusetts

v.

Upton

No. 83-1338

United States Supreme Court

May 14, 1984

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME

JUDICIAL COURT OF MASSACHUSETTS

Syllabus

City police officers, executing a search warrant for a motel room reserved by Richard Kelleher, discovered several items of identification, including credit cards, belonging to two persons whose homes had recently been burglarized, but other items taken in the burglaries, such as jewelry, silver, and gold, were not found. About three hours later, one of the officers received a phone call from an unidentified female who told him that a motor home containing stolen items, including jewelry, silver, and gold, was parked behind respondent's home; that respondent had purchased the items from Kelleher; and that respondent was going to move the motor home because of the search of the motel room. The caller also stated that she had seen the stolen items, but refused to identify herself because "he'll [referring to respondent] kill me." When the officer told the caller that he knew her name because he had met her and she had been identified as respondent's girlfriend, the caller admitted her identity and told the officer that she had broken up with respondent and "wanted to burn him." Following the call, the officer verified that a motor home was parked on the property and, while other officers watched the premises, prepared an application for a search warrant, setting out the information noted above in an affidavit and also attaching police reports on the two prior burglaries and lists of the stolen property. A Magistrate issued the warrant, and a subsequent search of the motor home produced the items described by the caller and other incriminating evidence. The discovered evidence led to respondent's conviction on multiple counts of burglary, receiving stolen property, and related crimes. However, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that the warrant violated the Fourth Amendment because it was not supported by a sufficient showing of probable cause, and reversed respondent's convictions. It interpreted Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, as merely refining the previous "two-pronged" test -- which related to an informant's "basis of knowledge" and its "reliability" -- by allowing corroboration of the informant's tip to make up for a failure to satisfy the two-pronged test. The court concluded that the two-pronged test was not met here, and that there was insufficient corroboration of the informant's tip.

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Held: The two-pronged test was rejected in Gates, which instead held that the Fourth Amendment's requirement of probable cause for the issuance of a warrant is to be applied, not according to a fixed and rigid formula, but rather in the light of the "totality of the circumstances" made known to the magistrate, and which emphasized that the task of a reviewing court is not to conduct a de novo determination of probable cause, but only to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to provide a "substantial basis" for the magistrate's decision to issue the warrant. When properly examined in light of Gates, the officer's affidavit in this case provided a substantial basis for the Magistrate's issuance of the warrant.

Certiorari granted; 390 Mass. 562, 458 N.E.2d 717, reversed and remanded.

Per curiam opinion.

PER CURIAM.

Last Term, in Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213 (1983), we held that the Fourth Amendment's requirement of probable cause for the issuance of a warrant is to be applied, not according to a fixed and rigid formula, but rather in the light of the "totality of the circumstances" made known to the magistrate. We also emphasized that the task of a reviewing court is not to conduct a de novo determination of probable cause, but only to determine whether there is substantial evidence in the record supporting the magistrate's decision to issue the warrant. In this case, the Supreme Judicial Court of [104 S.Ct. 2086] Massachusetts, interpreting the probable cause requirement of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, continued to rely on the approach set forth in cases such as Aguilar v. Texas, 378 U.S. 108 (1964), and Spinelli v. United States, 393 U.S. 410 (1969). 390 Mass. 562, 458 N.E.2d 717 (1983). Since this approach was rejected in Gates, we grant the petition for certiorari in this case and reverse the judgment of the Supreme Judicial Court.

At noon on September 11, 1980, Lieutenant Beland of the Yarmouth Police Department assisted in the execution of a search warrant for a motel room reserved by one Richard Kelleher at the Snug Harbor Motel in West Yarmouth. The search produced several items of identification, including

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credit cards, belonging to two persons whose homes had recently been burglarized. Other items taken in the burglaries, such as jewelry, silver, and gold, were not found at the motel.

At 3:20 p. m. on the same day, Lieutenant Beland received a call from an unidentified female who told him that there was "a motor home full of stolen stuff" parked behind #5 Jefferson Ave., the home of respondent George Upton and his mother. She stated that the stolen items included jewelry, silver, and gold. As set out in Lieutenant Beland's affidavit in support of a search warrant:

She further stated that George Upton was going to move the motor home any time now because of the fact that Ricky Kelleher's motel room was raided, and that George [Upton] had purchased these stolen items from Ricky Kelleher. This unidentified female stated that she had seen the stolen items, but refused to identify herself because "he'll kill me," referring to George Upton. I then told this unidentified female that I knew who she was, giving her the name of Lynn Alberico, who I had met on May 16, 1980, at George Upton's repair shop off Summer St., in Yarmouthport. She was identified to me by George Upton as being his girlfriend, Lynn Alberico. The unidentified female admitted that she was the girl that I had named, stating that she was surprised that I knew who she was. She then told me that she'd broken up with George Upton and wanted to burn him. She also told me that she wouldn't give me her address or phone number but that she would contact me in the future, if need be.

See 390 Mass. at 564 n. 2, 458 N.E.2d at 718, n. 2.

Following the phone call, Lieutenant Beland went to Upton's house to verify that a motor home was parked on the property. Then, while other officers watched the premises, Lieutenant Beland prepared the application for a search...

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