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UNITED STATES V. VENTRESCA, 380 U. S. 102 (1965)

U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Ventresca, 380 U.S. 102 (1965)

United States v. Ventresca

No. 28

Argued January 18-19, 1965

Decided March 1, 1965

380 U.S. 102


An Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division Investigator made an affidavit stating his belief, on the basis of his own observations and the observations and investigation of other Investigators, that there was an illegal distillery operation in respondent's house. The affidavit described different occasions when a car was driven to the rear of respondent's house with loads of sugar or empty tins; the loading at the house of apparently full five-gallon cans; the smelling by Investigators as they walked in front of the house of fermenting mash; and their hearing the sound of a motor pump and metallic noises from the direction of the house. A Commissioner issued a search warrant on the basis of the affidavit, pursuant to which a still was found for the illegal possession and operation of which respondent was convicted. The Court of Appeals reversed the conviction, holding the warrant insufficient to establish probable cause.

Held: The affidavit amply showed facts to establish probable cause to support the Commissioner's issuance of the search warrant. Pp. 380 U. S. 105-111.

(a) In a doubtful or marginal case, a search under a warrant may be sustainable where without one it would fall. Pp. 380 U. S. 106-107.

(b) An affidavit for a search warrant may be based on hearsay information so long as the magistrate is informed of some of the underlying circumstances supporting the affiant's conclusions and his belief that any informant involved, whose identity need not be disclosed, was credible or his information reliable. Aguilar v. Texas, 378 U. S. 108, followed. P. 380 U. S. 108.

(c) Though, in order for a magistrate to perform his detached function of determining probable cause, an affidavit must recite the underlying circumstances, and not mere conclusions as to probable cause, the affidavit must be tested in a common sense way. Pp. 380 U. S. 108-109.

(d) Since a fair reading of the whole affidavit, which is detailed and specific, setting forth many of the underlying circumstances, reveals that its conclusions are substantially based upon observations

Page 380 U. S. 103

of government officers, probable cause for the issuance of a warrant was shown. Pp. 380 U. S. 110-111.

324 F. 2d 864, reversed.

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