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

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SPINELLI v. UNITED STATES 393 U.S. 410 (1969)

In Spinelli the Supreme Court explicated and expanded the probable cause standards for search warrants set forth in aguilar v. texas (1964).

Spinelli was convicted under federal law of crossing state lines to conduct gambling operations. A detailed FBI affidavit, on which the search warrant was based, stated in part that Spinelli was "known" to law enforcement officers as a bookmaker, and that a confidential informant had established that Spinelli was operating as a bookmaker.

The Court ruled that the informant's testimony could not count toward the establishment of probable cause, because the affidavit failed to establish the informant's reliability or to clarify his relationship to Spinelli. The Court rejected the government's claim that the tip gave "suspicious color" to Spinelli's activities, and that, conversely, the surveillance helped corroborate the informant's tip (he had, for example, provided the correct numbers of two telephones listed in someone else's name in an apartment frequented by Spinelli). Such a "totality of the circumstances" approach, said the Court, painted "with too broad a brush." The Spinelli approach was abandoned in illinois v. gates (1983).

Jacob W. Landynski