Franks v. Delaware

LOCATION:Tellico Dam

DOCKET NO.: 77-5176
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: Delaware Supreme Court

CITATION: 438 US 154 (1978)
ARGUED: Feb 27, 1978
DECIDED: Jun 26, 1978

Donald W. Huntley
Harrison F. Turner – for respondent

Facts of the case


Media for Franks v. Delaware

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – February 27, 1978 in Franks v. Delaware

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 26, 1978 in Franks v. Delaware

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the court in 77-5176 Franks against Delaware will be announced by Mr. Justice Blackmun.

Harry A. Blackmun:

This case comes to us, as the title suggests, from the Supreme Court of the first state, the State of Delaware.

The case presents an important and long standing issue of Fourth Amendment of law.

That issue is whether a defendant in a criminal proceeding ever has a right under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, subsequent to the Ex-parte issuance of search warrant to challenge the truthfulness of factual statements made in an affidavit that supported that warrant.

Specifically, prior to his Delaware state trial on rape and related charges and in connection with his motion to suppress certain items of clothing and a knife found in the search of his apartment, petitioner challenged the truthfulness of certain factual statements made in the police affidavit supporting the warrant to search the apartment.

He also sought to call witnesses to prove the misstatements.

The trial court sustained the State’s objection and denied the motion to suppress.

It followed that the clothing and knife were admitted as evidence at the ensuring trial, at which petitioner was convicted.

The Supreme Court of Delaware affirmed.

It held that a defendant under no circumstances may challenge the veracity of a sworn statement used by police to procure a search warrant.

Because of the statements, Federal Courts have not been uniform in their resolution of this issue, we granted certiorari.

In an opinion filed today, we hold that where the defendant makes a substantial preliminary showing that a false statement knowingly and intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the truth, was included by the affiant in the warrant affidavit, and if the allegedly false statement is necessary to the finding of probable cause, the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments require that a hearing be held at the defendant’s request.

There is a caveat however, in order to mandate an evidentiary hearing, the challenger’s attack must be more than conclusory and it must be supported by more than a mere desire to cross-examine.

The allegation of deliberate falsehood or of reckless disregard must point out specifically the supporting reasons, the portion of the warrant affidavit that is claimed to be false.

It also must be accompanied by an offer of proof, including affidavits or sworn or otherwise reliable statements of witnesses, or a satisfactory explanation of their absence.

If these requirements as to allegations that and offer of proof are met, and if, when material that is the subject of the alleged falsity or reckless disregard is set to one side, there remains sufficient content in the warrant affidavit to support a finding of probable cause, then no hearing is required, but if the remaining content is insufficient, then the defendant is entitled under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments towards hearings.

If, after a hearing, a defendant establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that the false statement was included by the affiant knowingly and intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the truth, and the false statement was necessary to the finding of probable cause, then the search warrant must be voided and the fruits of the search excluded from the trial to the same extent as if probable cause was lacking on the face of the affidavit.

The judgment of the Supreme Court of Delaware is therefore reversed and the case is remanded for further proceedings, not inconsistent with the opinion that has been filed today.

I am authorized to say Mr. Justice Rehnquist has filed a dissenting opinion and is joined in that dissent by the Chief Justice.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice Blackmun.