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Spinelli v. United States

    Brief Fact Summary. Defendant was operating an illegal gambling outfit. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) obtained a search warrant on the basis of observing the defendant, Spinelli (the “defendant”) traveling to and from an apartment, and information supplied by a confidential informant.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. An affidavit used to support the issuance of a search warrant must set forth sufficient underlying circumstances which would cause a magistrate to judge the informant’s information independently and support a finding that the informant is “reliable/credible”.

    Facts. The defendant was traveling between Illinois and Missouri to conduct an illegal gambling operation in Missouri. The FBI observed the defendant traveling across state lines and going to and from a specific residence. The FBI also received information from an informant that the defendant was accepting wagers and operating a handbook by means of a telephone.

    Issue. If an informer’s tip is necessary to support a finding of probable cause, does there have to be independent information to corroborate the information?

    Held. An informant’s tip must include underlying statements which describe the circumstances which give rise to the assertions.
    Bald assertions that a defendant is engaging in illegal behavior is insufficient by itself to support a finding of probable cause.


    Discussion. An informant must explain why the information is reliable if the informant came upon the information indirectly. In order to issue a warrant, a magistrate must rely upon detailed criminal activities which are more substantial than mere allegations of wrongdoing.


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