IIllinois v. Gates

RESPONDENT: Lance Gates, et ux
LOCATION: Residence of Gates

DOCKET NO.: 81-430
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Illinois

CITATION: 462 US 213 (1983)
ARGUED: Oct 13, 1982
REARGUED: Mar 01, 1983
DECIDED: Jun 08, 1983

James W. Reilley - Reargued the cause for the respondents
Paul B. Biebel Jr. - on behalf of petitioner
Paul P. Biebel, Jr. - Reargued the cause for the petitioner
Rex E. Lee - Argued the cause on reargument for the United States as amicus curiae urging reversal

Facts of the case

The Bloomingdale, Illinois Police Department received an anonymous tip that Lance and Susan Gates were selling drugs out of their home. After observing the Gates's drug smuggling operation in action, police obtained a warrant and upon searching the suspects' car and home uncovered large quantities of marijuana, other contraband, and weapons.


Did the search of the Gates's home violate the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments?

Media for IIllinois v. Gates

Audio Transcription for Oral Reargument - March 01, 1983 in IIllinois v. Gates

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 13, 1982 in IIllinois v. Gates

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments first this morning in Illinois against Gates.

Mr. Biebel, I think you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Paul B. Biebel Jr.:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This is a search and seizure case.

It involves the question of whether or not probable cause for the establishment of a search warrant can be established where an anonymous letter is sent to a police department and many of the items of that anonymous letter are then corroborated by the police.

Here, pursuant to a search warrant, the car and the apartment of Lance and Susan Gates were searched and large quantities of drugs were seized.

However, a motion to suppress was granted by the trial court, DuPage County, Illinois.

That suppression was affirmed by the Appellate Court of Illinois and affirmed once again by the Supreme Court of Illinois.

Certiorari was granted by this Court.

The pertinent facts are these.

On May 3rd, 1978, the Bloomingdale, Illinois Police Department received an anonymous letter which was postmarked May 2nd, 1978.

That letter said that there was a couple living in Bloomingdale, Lance and Sue Gates, who lived on Greenway in the condominiums who made their living off drugs.

Most of their buys, according to the letter, were done in Florida.

Sue would drive a car down to Florida; Lance would fly down later and drive the car back.

The letter specifically stated that on May 3rd, Sue would be driving down to Florida and Lance would be flying down a couple of days later to drive the car back.

The letter stated that the car would contain $100,000 worth of drugs in the trunk, and that there are about $100,000 worth of drugs in the couple's apartment in the basement.

Further, the letter said that the Gates brag about the fact that they don't have to work and that they make their money off pushers.

Finally, they indicated that the Gates's were friends with drug dealers who visit their house often.

Upon receipt of this letter on May 3rd, 1978, the case was assigned to Detective Charles Mader of the Bloomingdale Police Department who did several things to check whether or not this letter was accurate.

First of all, he checked with the Illinois Secretary of State to ascertain whether anybody with a driver's license by the name of Gates lived in Bloomingdale, and he checked and he found out that, indeed, a Lance Gates lived in Bloomingdale; however, he lived on Dartmouth Avenue, which was different from the letter.

The Secretary of State provided a description of Mr. Gates.

He was a male, white, born in 1947, brown eyes, brown hair, five feet, eleven, 220 pounds.

Because of the discrepancy in the information of the Secretary of State, Detective Mader went further and checked with an anonymous informant who had provided reliable information in the past, which gave him information from financial records which his informant had which indicated that Mr. Gates lived on Greenway, which was consistent with the letter, and that his prior address was on Dartmouth, which would indicate that he had let his driver's license, in effect... he didn't follow it up with the new address.

Detective Mader then went and checked with the Chicago Police Department who has responsibility for O'Hare field and ascertained that an L. Gates was slated to go out on Flight 245 on Eastern Airlines to Atlanta and West Palm Beach, Florida at 4:15 on May 5th, which would be consistent with the letter.

A phone number was given for L. Gates, who had registered.

Detective Mader then contacted the security office of the Illinois Bell Telephone Company and found out that that phone number was an unlisted number to Lance Gates who lived on Greenway Drive in Bloomingdale, Illinois.

Detective Mader then checked with the Drug Enforcement Administration, and they had an agent out at O'Hare field waiting to watch the people get on Flight 245.

A man identifying himself as Lance Gates and meeting the description got on that plane.

Drug Enforcement agents were in Florida when that plane landed and they watched Mr. Gate get off the plane, they watched him stay at the airport for about an hour, and then they observed that he took a cab directly to the West Palm Beach Holiday Inn.

He was observed entering the room, registered to Susan Gates.