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United States v. Hinton – Case Brief Summary (Federal Court)

In United States v. Hinton, 219 F.2d 324 (7th Cir. 1955), the police obtained a search warrant for "the basement and three floors" of a residential apartment building in Chicago.

There was one apartment unit on each floor and one in the basement. An informant had told police that she had witnessed heroin being sold on the premises of the apartment building by four women, all of whom she knew by their aliases.

The affidavit in support of the warrant application stated that one woman was known as Savannah White and another as Sue.

The affidavit did not identify the four women as residents of the apartment building or otherwise identify any of the apartments as being the location of the heroin sales or the locus of any other illegal activity.

The police searched all four apartment units, seized narcotics evidence, and arrested two women: Savannah Hinton and Susie Powers. Hinton and Powers were charged with federal narcotics crimes. They moved to suppress the evidence seized from the apartment building. The district court denied their motions and both were convicted.

On appeal, the Seventh Circuit reversed. It reasoned that although, ordinarily, the "showing of probable cause and the particularity of the description of the place to be searched" are separate issues, here, they were intertwined because the "scope of the warrant to search is dependent upon the extent of the showing of probable cause." Id. at 325.

This was so because "the command to search can never include more than is covered by the showing of probable cause to search." Id.

The court concluded that the warrant was fatally deficient because the application failed to specify probable cause as to any particular apartment, much less all of them.

The court emphasized that "searching two or more apartments in the same building is no different than searching two or more completely separate houses." Id. at 325-26.