McCray v. State of Illinois, 159

Decision Date20 March 1967
Docket NumberNo. 159,159
Citation386 U.S. 300,18 L.Ed.2d 62,87 S.Ct. 1056
PartiesGeorge McCRAY, Petitioner, v. STATE OF ILLINOIS
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

See 386 U.S. 1042, 87 S.Ct. 1474.

R. Eugene Pincham, Chicago, Ill., for petitioner.

John J. O'Toole, Chicago, Ill., for respondent.

Mr. Justice STEWART delivered the opinion of 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, 81 S.Ct. 1684, 6 L.Ed.2d 1081. 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 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 question.3 The petitioner did not identify the 'friend' or the 'lady,' and neither of them appeared as a witness.

The arresting officers 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 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 convictions. 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 violations 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 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 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, 79 S.Ct. 329, 3 L.Ed.2d 327. Unlike the situation in Beck v. State of Ohio, 379 U.S. 89, 85 S.Ct. 223, 13 L.Ed.2d 142, 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, 85 S.Ct., at 229. 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. State of Texas, 378 U.S. 108, 114, 84 S.Ct. 1509, 1514, 12 L.Ed.2d 723. See United States v. Ventresca, 380 U.S. 102, 85 S.Ct. 741, 13 L.Ed.2d 684. 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, 338 U.S. 160, 175—176, 69 S.Ct. 1302, 1310—1311, 93 L.Ed. 1879; Henry v. United States, 361 U.S. 98, 102, 80 S.Ct. 168, 171, 4 L.Ed.2d 134,' Beck v. State of Ohio, supra, 379 U.S. at 91, 85 S.Ct. at 225. 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 as 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 officers 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, for violation of any provision of Division 10 (commencing with Section 11000) of the Health and Safety Code, evidence of informa- tion 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 such information was received from a reliable informant and in his discretion does not require such disclosure.' California Evid.Code § 1042(c).7

The reasoning of the Supreme Court of New Jersey in judicially adopting the same basic evidentiary rule was instructively expressed by Chief Justice Weintraub in State v. Burnett, 42 N.J. 377, 201 A.2d 39:

'If a defendant may insist upon disclosure of the informant in order to test the truth of the officer's statement that there is an informant or as to what the informant related or as to the informant's reliability, we can be sure that every defendant will demand disclosure. He has nothing to lose and the prize may be the suppression of damaging evidence if the State cannot afford to reveal its source, as is so often the case. And since there is no way to test the good faith of a defendant who presses the demand, we must assume the routine demand would have to be routinely granted. The result would be that the State could use the informant's information only as a lead and could search only if it could gather adequate evidence of probable cause apart from the informant's data. Perhaps that approach would sharpen investigatorial techniques, but we doubt that there would be enough talent and time to cope with crime upon that basis. Rather we accept the premise that the informer is a vital part of society's defensive arsenal. The basic rule protecting his identity rests upon that belief.

'We must remember also that we are not dealing with the trial of the criminal charge itself. There the need for a truthful verdict outweighs society's need for the informer privilege. Here, however, the accused seeks to avoid the truth. The very purpose of a motion to suppress is to escape the inculpatory thrust of evidence in hand, not because its probative force is diluted in the least...

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