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PEOPLE STATE NEW YORK v. JOHN HENDRICKS (07/02/69)

COURT OF APPEALS OF NEW YORK 1969.NY.42435 <http://www.versuslaw.com>; 250 N.E.2d 323; 25 N.Y.2d 129 decided: July 2, 1969. THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, RESPONDENT,v.JOHN HENDRICKS, APPELLANT People v. Hendricks, 30 A.D.2d 640, reversed. Counsel Malvine Nathanson and Milton Adler for appellant. Thomas J. Mackell, District Attorney (George D. Marlow of counsel), for respondent. Chief Judge Fuld and Judges Burke, Scileppi, Bergan, Breitel and Jasen concur. Author: Scileppi


People v. Hendricks, Chief Judge Fuld and Judges Burke, Scileppi, Bergan, Breitel and Jasen concur.

Author: Scileppi

 On May 1, 1964 a search warrant authorizing a search of the person and the Queens County residence of the defendant was issued, based upon a supporting affidavit sworn to by Detective James Mugan. Armed with the warrant, Detective Mugan and two other detectives took the defendant into custody in Manhattan, near his place of business. They frisked him but did not then open the attache case that he was carrying. The detectives informed the defendant that they had the warrant and that with or without him they were going to proceed to Queens County to execute it. He apparently chose to accompany them. Just before entering the house, the detectives opened the attache case and discovered a loaded gun and a large quantity of airline tickets. The search of the house resulted in the seizure of another loaded gun, a pair of brass knuckles and a blackjack.

After the search was concluded, the officers asked the defendant about the items found in the attache case and in the house, and he admitted ownership of the gun, brass knuckles and blackjack. According to the record, defendant made no statement until the weapons had been found.

Based upon the evidence seized, defendant was indicted and charged with several counts of illegal possession of weapons as well as forgery in the second degree.

Prior to trial, defendant moved to suppress the physical evidence on the grounds that there was no probable cause established for the issuance of the warrant and that the warrant was void on its face for failure to particularly describe the property to be searched for and seized. After a hearing the Supreme Court, Queens County (Shapiro, J.), in an elaborate opinion, held that the airline tickets should be suppressed, because they were not mentioned in the search warrant or supporting affidavit, but that the other evidence seized from the house -- the gun, blackjack and brass knuckles -- was sufficiently described in the supporting affidavit and thus could be seized (45 Misc. 2d 7).

Since the airline tickets were suppressed, the counts of the indictment relating to forgery and criminally receiving and withholding stolen property were dismissed.

On March 11, 1965 a hearing was held before the Supreme Court, Queens County (Bosch, J.), on defendant's motion to suppress certain statements. Defendant argued that the search warrant was invalid and that any admissions obtained as a result of the execution of that warrant were tainted and must be suppressed. He further argued he was not advised of his right to counsel after his arrest. The court held that it was bound by Judge Shapiro's ruling as to the validity of the warrant and that the admissions were not the result of any coercion, inducement or force.

Thereafter, defendant pleaded guilty to attempted violation of section 1897 of the former Penal Law as a misdemeanor in satisfaction of all the counts in the indictment. He was sentenced to six months' imprisonment, execution of sentence suspended.

The Appellate Division, Second Department, unanimously affirmed without opinion and defendant appeals to this court pursuant to permission granted by an Associate Judge.

It seems clear, without going further, that the affidavit in support of the warrant was insufficient to establish probable cause.

The affidavit, sworn by Detective Mugan, recited in pertinent part: "2. I have information based upon confidential information, from a previously reliable informant, that John Hendricks has concealed on his person and in his residence at 97-20 72nd Drive, Forest Hills, New York a revolver for which he has no Pistol Permit and a quantity of jewelry and other property which are the proceeds of larcenies and burglaries in the New York area."

It is well settled that a police officer or other affiant may, in an affidavit in support of a warrant, rely upon hearsay information obtained from an informer rather than upon his own personal observation (see, e.g., Jones v. United States, 362 U.S. 257, 270). In such case, however, the affidavit must meet the two pronged test laid down in Aguilar v. Texas (378 U.S. 108) and most recently reaffirmed in Spinelli v. United States (393 U.S. 410). In short that test requires that the affidavit show (1) whether the informant is in fact reliable, and (2) whether the underlying circumstances as to how the informant came by his information demonstrates sufficient probability of credibility to allow the search of the premises or person in question.

The first prong of the test can be met by the affiant's statement "that the informant is known to him and has in the past furnished information leading to the arrest and conviction of others" (People v. Montague, 19 N.Y.2d 121, 122; People v. Rogers, 15 N.Y.2d 422, 424) or by a separate objective checking of the informant's tale (People v. Cerrato, 24 N.Y.2d 1; People v. Coffey, 12 N.Y.2d 443, 452, cert. den. 376 U.S. 916; see, also, People v. Malinsky, 15 N.Y.2d 86, 91; Beck v. Ohio, 379 U.S. 89). Clearly in the instant case the first prong of the test was adequately met, when Detective Mugan stated in the affidavit that "Informant has previously furnished me with confidential information which resulted in the arrest and conviction of three persons for Burglary on April 14, 1963. Case #2387 of 34 Squad. And the arrest of two persons on March 27, 1964 for violation of 1308 Penal Law ($23,550 of American Express Money Orders). Case #1634 of 61 Squad."

Indeed, defendant concedes the reliability of the informant but contends that the affidavit is insufficient in that it fails to set forth the underlying circumstances from which the informant concluded that a crime had been committed and that the property was where he said it was. In other words there is nothing in the affidavit to establish a basis for the reliability of the information as distinguished from the reliability of the informant. There must be more than an ultimate conclusion of probable cause or the affiant's mere assertion that the information received was reliable. The reliability of the information may be based on independent observations made by the police officer (see People v. Cerrato, supra ; People v. Schnitzler, 18 N.Y.2d 457; People v. Rogers, supra ; People v. Malinsky, supra ; People v. Coffey, supra). It may also be found where the information is so detailed that it is set apart from the category of rumor (Spinelli v. United States, ...


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