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People v. Gates





Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Second District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County, the Hon. William V. Hopf, Judge, presiding.


On May 3, 1978, the Bloomingdale police department received by mail an anonymous handwritten letter which alleged that Susan Gates and Lance Gates, her husband, were planning to travel to Florida in a few days for the purpose of obtaining illegal drugs. The letter read:

"This letter is to inform you that you have a couple in your town who strictly make their living on selling drugs. They are Sue and Lance Gates, they live on Greenway, off Bloomingdale Rd. in the condominiums. Most of their buys are done in Florida. Sue his wife drives their car to Florida where she leaves it to be loaded up with drugs, then Lance flys [sic] down and drives it back. Sue flys [sic] back after she drops the car off in Florida. May 3 she is driving down there again and Lance will be flying down in a few days to drive it back. At the time Lance drives the car back he has the trunk loaded with over $100,000.00 in drugs. Presently they have over $100,000.00 worth of drugs in their basement.

They brag about the fact they never have to work, and make their entire living on pushers.

I guarantee [sic] if you watch them carefully you will make a big catch. They are friends with some big drugs dealers, who visit their house often.

Lance & Sue Gates Greenway in Condominiums."

The chief of police delivered the letter to Charles Mader, a detective of the Bloomingdale police department and he requested one of the department's radio operators to seek assistance from the Secretary of State's office in Springfield in obtaining a specific address for the Gateses. That office advised that an Illinois driver's license had been issued to a Lance Gates residing at a stated address in Bloomingdale. Mader then communicated with a confidential informant who had, he claimed, provided reliable information to Mader during the previous two years. Upon examining certain financial records to which the informant had access, he reported a new address on Greenway Drive in Bloomingdale for the Lance Gates who had previously resided at the address in Bloomingdale furnished by the Secretary of State's office.

Upon inquiry, Mader was told by an officer of the Chicago police department assigned to O'Hare Airport that "L. Gates" had made a reservation with Eastern Airlines on its flight 245, which was to depart from O'Hare on May 5, at 4:15 p.m. The final destination of the flight was West Palm Beach, Florida.

On May 5, Mader was told by William Morely, an agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration, that "Lance Gates" had boarded Eastern Airlines flight 245 bound for Florida. The following day Morely informed Mader that Gates had arrived in West Palm Beach, had proceeded by cab to the West Palm Beach Holiday Inn, and had entered a room registered to Susan Gates. Agent Morely told him that he observed Gates and an unidentified woman leave the room at 7 a.m. and enter a red-vinyl-over-gray Mercury with 1978 Illinois license number RS 8437. Records at the Secretary of State's office showed that the license plate was registered for Lance B. Gates, but had been issued for a different automobile.

Based on the anonymous letter, the described information obtained from the law-enforcement authorities, and the verification of the address obtained from the confidential informant, Mader, on May 6, sought and obtained in the circuit court of Du Page County, a search warrant for both the Gateses' residence in Bloomingdale and the car they were driving from Florida.

At 5:15 a.m. on May 7, Lance and Susan Gates returned by car to their home on Greenway Drive. They were immediately served with a search warrant by waiting Bloomingdale police officers. In the trunk of the Mercury the officers found several large bundles of marijuana weighing a total of approximately 350 pounds. A search of the Gateses' residence uncovered more marijuana. weapons, ammunition, drug paraphernalia, and several scales presumably used for weighing the drugs. Police also ascertained that the couple had cocaine in their possession. They were indicted for unlawful possession of cannabis with intent to deliver and unlawful possession of a controlled substance. Lance Gates was separately indicted for possession of an unlicensed firearm.

The defendants filed a pretrial motion to quash the search warrant and to suppress all physical evidence obtained as a result of the search, arguing that the anonymous letter did not set forth the underlying circumstances or manner in which the informant acquired the information or that the information was reliable as required under the test for probable cause described in Aguilar v. Texas (1964), 378 U.S. 108, 12 L.Ed.2d 723, 84 S.Ct. 1509. The defendants also argued that the separate evidence obtained by Detective Mader in his independent investigations did not corroborate the anonymous informant's accusations that the Gateses were involved in criminal activity so as to support the issuance of a search warrant based on probable cause. The motions to quash and to suppress evidence were allowed by the circuit court of Du Page County, and its action was affirmed by the appellate court (82 Ill. App.3d 749). We granted the State's petition for leave to appeal. 73 Ill.2d R. 315(a).

Both the Constitution of the United States (U.S. Const., amend. IV) and the Constitution of Illinois (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, sec. 6) provide assurance against unreasonable searches and seizures of person and property. The determination of probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant must be made by a "neutral and detached magistrate instead of being judged by the officer engaged in the often competitive enterprise of ferreting out crime." (Johnson v. United States (1948), 333 U.S. 10, 14, 92 L.Ed. 436, 440, 68 S.Ct. 367, 369.) This determination also must be based upon the sworn observations or on other sufficient facts or circumstances presented under oath before a magistrate. The Supreme Court in Aguilar v. Texas (1964), 378 U.S. 108, 12 L.Ed.2d 723, 84 S.Ct. 1509, considering its decisions in Giordenello v. United States (1958), 357 U.S. 480, 2 L.Ed.2d 1503, 78 S.Ct. 1245, Johnson v. United States (1948), 333 U.S. 10, 92 L.Ed. 436, 68 S.Ct. 367, Nathanson v. United States (1933), 290 U.S. 41, 78 L.Ed. 159, 54 S.Ct. 11, and United States v. Lefkowitz (1932), 285 U.S. 452, 76 L.Ed. 877, 52 S.Ct. 420, announced the constitutional standard to be used by courts> in deciding whether a search warrant might properly issue when the complaint for the search warrant is based in whole or in part upon information supplied by an anonymous or unidentified informant. The court stated:

"Although an affidavit may be based on hearsay information and need not reflect the direct personal observations of the affiant [citation], the magistrate must be informed of some of the underlying circumstances from which the informant concluded that the narcotics were where he claimed they were, and some of the underlying circumstances from which the officer concluded that the informant, whose identity need not be disclosed [citation], was `credible' or his information `reliable.'" 378 U.S. 108, 114, 12 L.Ed.2d 723, 729, 84 S.Ct. 1509, 1514.

The first part of this standard or test is often referred to as the "basis of knowledge prong" and the second ...

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