Spinelli v. United States, 393 U.S. 410 (1969)

Author: U.S. Supreme Court

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Spinelli v. United States, 393 U.S. 410 (1969)

Spinelli v. United States

No. 8

Argued October 16-17, 1968
Decided January 27, 1969
393 U.S. 410



Petitioner was convicted of illegal interstate gambling activities despite his claim that the Commissioner’s warrant authorizing the FBI search that uncovered evidence used at his trial violated the Fourth Amendment. He argued that the FBI agent’s supporting affidavit did not afford probable cause for issuance of the warrant. The affidavit alleged that the FBI had followed petitioner on five days, on four of which he had been seen crossing one of two bridges leading from Illinois to St. Louis, Missouri, and had been seen parking his car at a St. Louis apartment house parking lot; he was seen one day to enter a particular apartment; the apartment contained two telephones with specified numbers; petitioner was known to affiant as a gambler and associate of gamblers; and the FBI had "been informed by a confidential reliable informant" that petitioner was "operating a handbook and accepting wagers and disseminating wagering information by means of the telephones" which had been assigned the specified numbers. Viewing the information in the affidavit in its totality, the Court of Appeals deemed the principles of Aguilar v. Texas, 378 U.S. 108, satisfied, and upheld the conviction.

Held: The informant’s tip, an essential part of the affidavit in this case, was not sufficient (even as corroborated by other allegations) to provide the basis for a finding of probable cause that a crime was being committed.

Pp. 412-420.

(a) The tip was inadequate under the standards of Aguilar, supra, since it did not set forth any reason to support the conclusion that the informant was "reliable," and did not sufficiently state the underlying circumstances from which the informant had concluded that petitioner was running a bookmaking operation or sufficiently detail his activities to enable the Commissioner to know that he was relying on more than casual rumor or general reputation. Cf. Draper v. United States, 358 U.S. 307. Pp. 415-417.

(b) Nor was the tip’s reliability sufficiently enhanced by the FBI’s corroboration of certain limited aspects of the informant’s report through the use of independent sources. Pp. 417-418.

(c) The FBI’s surveillance of petitioner and its investigation of the telephone company records do not independently suggest criminal conduct when taken by themselves. P. 418.

382 F.2d 871, reversed and remanded.


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Chicago: U.S. Supreme Court, "Syllabus," Spinelli v. United States, 393 U.S. 410 (1969) in 393 U.S. 410 393 U.S. 411. Original Sources, accessed December 5, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4SSD2NS2XSXQIBK.

MLA: U.S. Supreme Court. "Syllabus." Spinelli v. United States, 393 U.S. 410 (1969), in 393 U.S. 410, page 393 U.S. 411. Original Sources. 5 Dec. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4SSD2NS2XSXQIBK.

Harvard: U.S. Supreme Court, 'Syllabus' in Spinelli v. United States, 393 U.S. 410 (1969). cited in 1969, 393 U.S. 410, pp.393 U.S. 411. Original Sources, retrieved 5 December 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4SSD2NS2XSXQIBK.