Washington Law Review


The Supreme Court was expected to announce a decision in Illinois v. Gates modifying the exclusionary rule to include a "good-faith" exception. "[W]ith apologies to all," however, the Court declined to rule on that issue. The Supreme Court instead abandoned the Aguilar-Spinelli test for assessing probable cause based on information derived from informants. The Court replaced the Aguilar-Spinelli test with a "totality of the circumstances" approach, and upheld the search warrant in Gates. Gates is the first Supreme Court decision to specifically address the use of anonymous informants' tips as the probable cause basis for securing a search warrant. Gates represents the Court's continuing attempt to refine the use of hearsay affidavits to establish probable cause. This Note will outline the legal background of Gates, tracing the development of the Aguilar-Spinelli test. The Note will then analyze the Court's abandonment of the Aguilar-Spinelli test and examine the policy implications in view of recent debate over modifications to the exclusionary rule. The Note will also consider the Court's reasoning within the framework of possible modifications to the Aguilar-Spinelli test. It concludes that the abandonment of Aguilar-Spinelli was unjustified because the test provides appropriate guidelines for magistrates to properly assess hearsay affidavits.

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