The opinion of the court was delivered by: KRAFT
Defendant has filed a motion to suppress certain evidence seized under three search warrants issued by a state magistrate pursuant to complaints submitted by two policemen of the City of Chester.
It is alleged that the affidavits in the complaints are insufficient as a matter of law because they fail to disclose the source of the informer's information to support the belief of the officers that there was stolen whiskey stored on defendant's premises and in a garage and in his Dodge truck. Spinelli v. United States, 393 U.S. 410, 89 S. Ct. 584, 21 L. Ed. 2d 637 (1969).
The pertinent portions of the complaints read as follows:
"information has been received from a reliable informer who we have used in the past, and who we believe to be true, and information from this informer has been used in the past for prior arrests that a quantity of Johnny Walker red label, Scotch, which are in cased, 12 bottles to a case, are being stored in the above mentioned house. The informer also stated that the above mentioned Scotch is stolen from the City of Wilmington, Delaware. This informer also stated that Ricci is also known as Scudsy. A teletype was received from the Wilmington Police Dept. stating that this whiskey was stolen, and also that all of the cases were marked with numbers."
At the hearing on defendant's motion, Sergeant William Hamilton of the Chester Police Department testified that he and Detective Hoopes, of the same department, executed the complaints for the warrants (n.t. 6, 21). Sergeant Hamilton stated that he and Detective Hoopes procured the warrants "based on information received from the F.B.I. and another officer, we secured a search and seizure warrant." (n.t. 5). Detective Hoopes recalled that: "It was the information they [F.B.I.] gave us that we secured the warrants from." (n.t. 22). Detective Hoopes also confirmed the fact that information was also received from "other police officers." (n.t. 22, 23).
After the warrants were obtained Sergeant Hamilton, Detective Hoopes, five or six Special Agents of the F.B.I., two police officers from Wilmington, Delaware, and several other police officers, converged on the defendant's home and garage.
After a search of the defendant's home which disclosed no whiskey, Sergeant Hamilton went to the garage and noted that the door was raised, revealing several hundred cases of Scotch whiskey. (n.t. 7-10). Thereafter, Mr. Ricci accompanied the police and F.B.I. to a Gulf service station where the Dodge panel truck was parked. A search of this vehicle revealed a number of additional cases of similar whiskey (n.t. 41).
Subsequently, defendant, in custody, was taken to the Chester Police Department where he was again advised of his rights and questioned by the F.B.I. (n.t. 30). After the interrogation, the defendant gave a signed statement to the F.B.I. (n.t. 30-35). During both the search and interview defendant was cooperative with the police and the F.B.I. (n.t. 30, 33).
The fundamental issue of law presented is whether the informant's tip as disclosed was adequate to provide a basis for a finding of probable cause that a crime had been committed.
After careful evaluation of the complaints, the testimony taken at the hearing on the motion and the prevailing law, we regretfully conclude that the complaints for the search warrants did not provide sufficient basis for a finding of probable cause for the issuance of search warrants. Aguilar v. Texas, 378 U.S. 108, 84 S. Ct. 1509, 12 L. Ed. 2d 723. (1964); Spinelli v. United States, 393 U.S. 410, 89 S. Ct. 584, 21 L. Ed. 2d 637 (1969).
The informant's tip, an essential part of the affidavit, does not set forth any of the underlying circumstances from which the informant concluded that stolen whiskey was being stored at the three locations for which the warrants were issued.
"In the absence of a statement detailing the manner in which the information was gathered, it is especially important that the tip described the accused's criminal activity in sufficient detail that the magistrate may know that he is relying on something more substantial than a casual rumor circulating in the underworld or an accusation based merely on an individual's ...