United States v. Harris

Facts of the Case

George Harris and Angelo Mamone appealed from judgments entered on jury verdicts in the District Court for the Southern District of New York, convicting them of conspiracy to distribute heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 , and attempting to possess heroin with the intent to distribute. Having previously been convicted of federal narcotics violations, both Harris and Mamone were subject to the enhanced penalties provided under the statute, and each received concurrent terms of twenty years on Counts One and Two, and a $ 50,000 fine. On appeal Harris and Mamone contend, among other things, that the evidence was insufficient to support their convictions on either count, and the district judge erroneously excluded testimony crucial to the defense.


Did the investigator’s affidavit provide sufficient probable cause to issue a search warrant?


Yes. Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, writing for a 5-4 majority, delivered the opinion of the court. The Supreme Court held that the affidavit provided enough probable cause to issue a search warrant. In Part I, Chief Justice Burger expressed that the affidavit provided a factual basis for the search because of the investigator’s personal knowledge of Harris. In Part II, Chief Justice Burger wrote that the investigator’s knowledge of Harris’ reputation provided reliability for the constable’s information. In Part III expressed that the constable’s statements could be trusted because they were against his penal interest. Justices Hugo L. Black and Harry A. Blackmun joined in the entirety of the majority opinion and concurred, writing that they would overrule the cases the Sixth Circuit relied on. Justice Potter Stewart joined in Part I, and concurred in the judgment. Justice Byron R White joined in Part III, and concurred in the judgment.Justice John M. Harlan dissented, writing that the investigator’s affidavit did not provide probable cause to issue a search warrant. Justices William O. Douglas, William J. Brennan, Jr., and Thurgood Marshall joined in the dissent.

Case Information

  • Citation: 403 US 573 (1971)
  • Argued: Mar 23, 1971
  • Decided Jun 28, 1971Granted: Feb 24, 1970