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United States v. Harris


A federal tax investigator and a local police officer entered the premises of the defendant, pursuant to a search warrant, and seized jugs of whiskey upon which the federal tax had not been paid. The search warrant was issued solely on the basis of the investigator’s affidavit, which recited the following:

Roosevelt Harris has had a reputation with me for over 4 years as being a trafficker of nontaxpaid distilled spirits, and over this period I have received numerous information [sic] from all types of persons as to his activities. Constable Howard Johnson located a sizeable stash of illicit whiskey in an abandoned house under Harris’ control during this period of time. This date, I have received information from a person who fears for their [sic] life and property should their name be revealed. I have interviewed this person, found this person to be a prudent person, and have, under a sworn verbal statement, gained the following information: This person has personal knowledge of and has purchased illicit whiskey from within the residence described, for a period of more than 2 years, and most recently within the past two weeks, has knowledge of a person who purchased illicit whiskey within the past 2 days from the house, has personal knowledge that the illicit whiskey is consumed by purchasers in the outbuilding known as and utilized the ‘dance hall’ and has seen Roosevelt Harris go to the other outbuilding, located about 50 yards from the residence, on numerous occasions, to obtain the whiskey for this person and other persons.


Whether information from a partner-in-crime can be credible, even though the identity of the informant is confidential?


Yes. Partners-in-crime are presumed credible.


The affidavit purports to relate the personal observations of the informant and recites prior events within the affiant’s own knowledge indicating that the accused had previously trafficked in contraband. A law enforcement officer’s knowledge of a suspect’s reputation is a practical consideration of everyday life upon which an officer or a magistrate may properly rely in assessing the reliability of an informant’s tip.

For purposes of determining whether an affidavit is sufficient to establish probable cause for a search warrant, the informant’s declaration against interest is reason to believe the information. The affidavit recited that the informant feared for his life and safety if his identity was revealed and that over the past two years he had often and recently purchased contraband from the accused. These statements are against the informant’s penal interest, for they constitute an admission of major elements of an offense. Admissions of crime, like admissions against proprietary interests, carry their own indicia of credibility.


403 U.S. 573, 91 S. Ct. 2075 (1971)

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