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

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U.S. Supreme Court

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

Aguilar v. Texas

No. 548

Argued March 25-26, 1964

Decided June 15, 1964

378 U.S. 108

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. 378 U. S. 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. 378 U. S. 110-115.

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

Page 378 U. S. 109

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. [Footnote 1]"

The search warrant was issued.

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

Page 378 U. S. 110

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. [Footnote 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 374 U. S. 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

Page 378 U. S. 111

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

United States v. Lefkowitz,285 U. S. 452, 285 U. S. 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, 333 U. S. 14. Under such a rule, "resort to (warrants) would ultimately be discouraged." Jones v. United States,362 U. S. 257, 362 U. S. 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 362 U. S. 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 333 U. S. 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.

Page 378 U. S. 112

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 290 U. S. 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 290 U. S. 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 290 U. S. 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. [Footnote 3] Affiant in that case swore that petitioner "did receive, conceal, etc., narcotic drugs . . . with knowledge of unlawful importation . . . ." Id. at 357 U. S. 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

Page 378 U. S. 113

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, 333 U. S. 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 question the complainant's mere conclusion . . . ."

357 U.S. at 357 U. S. 486.

The Court, applying these principles to the complaint in that case, stated that:

"it is clear that it does not pass muster because it does not provide any basis for the Commissioner's determination . . . that probable cause existed. The complaint contains no affirmative allegation that the affiant spoke with personal knowledge of the matters contained therein; it does not indicate any sources for the complainant's belief; and it does not set forth any other sufficient basis upon which a finding of probable cause could be made."

Ibid.

The vice in the present affidavit is at least as great as in Nathanson and Giordenello. Here, the "mere conclusion" that petitioner possessed narcotics was not even that of the affiant himself; it was that of an unidentified informant. The affidavit here not only "contains no affirmative allegation that the affiant spoke with personal knowledge of the matters contained therein," it does not even contain an "affirmative allegation" that the affiant's unidentified source "spoke with personal knowledge." For all that appears, the source here merely suspected, believed or concluded that there were narcotics in petitioner's

Page 378 U. S. 114

possession. [Footnote 4] The magistrate here certainly could not "judge for himself the persuasiveness of the facts relied on . . . to show probable case." He necessarily accepted "without question" the informant's "suspicion," "belief," or "mere conclusion."

Although an affidavit may be based on hearsay information, and need not reflect the direct personal observations of the affiant, Jones v. United States,362 U. S. 257, the magistrate must be informed of some 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, whose identity need not be disclosed, see Rugendorf v. United States,376 U. S. 528, was "credible" or his information "reliable." [Footnote 5] Otherwise,

Page 378 U. S. 115

"the inferences from the facts which lead to the complaint" will be drawn not "by a neutral and detached magistrate," as the Constitution requires, but, instead, by a police officer "engaged in the often competitive enterprise of ferreting out crime," Giordenello v. United States, supra, 357 U.S. at 357 U. S. 486; Johnson v. United States, supra, at 333 U. S. 14, or, as in this case, by an unidentified informant.

We conclude, therefore, that the search warrant should not have been issued, because the affidavit did not provide a sufficient basis for a finding of probable cause, and that

Page 378 U. S. 116

the evidence obtained as a result of the search warrant was inadmissible in petitioner's trial.

The judgment of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is reversed, and the case remanded for proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.

Reversed and remanded.

[Footnote 1]

The record does not reveal, nor is it claimed, that any other information was brought to the attention of the Justice of the Peace. It is elementary that, in passing on the validity of a warrant, the reviewing court may consider only information brought to the magistrate's attention. Giordenello v. United States,357 U. S. 480, 79 C.J.S. Searches and Seizures

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