Franks v. Delaware

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Franks v. Delaware
Seal of the United States Supreme Court
Argued February 27, 1978
Decided June 26, 1978
Full case nameJerome Franks v. Delaware
Citations438 U.S. 154 (more)
98 S. Ct. 2674; 57 L. Ed. 2d 667
Case history
PriorFranks v. State, 373 A.2d 578 (Del. 1977)
SubsequentFranks v. State, 398 A.2d 783 (Del. 1979)
Where a warrant affidavit contains a statement, necessary to the finding of probable cause, that is demonstrated to be both false and included by an affiant knowingly and intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the truth, the warrant is not valid.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Warren E. Burger
Associate Justices
William J. Brennan Jr. · Potter Stewart
Byron White · Thurgood Marshall
Harry Blackmun · Lewis F. Powell Jr.
William Rehnquist · John P. Stevens
Case opinions
MajorityBlackmun, joined by Brennan, Stewart, White, Marshall, Powell, Stevens
DissentRehnquist, joined by Burger
Laws applied
4th Amendment of the US Constitution

Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978), is a United States Supreme Court case dealing with defendants' rights to challenge evidence collected on the basis of a warrant granted on the basis of a false statement. The court held that where a warrant affidavit contains a statement, necessary to the finding of probable cause, that is demonstrated to be both false and included by an affiant knowingly and intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the truth, the warrant is not valid.


On Friday, March 5, 1976, Mrs. Cynthia Bailey told police in Dover, Delaware, that she had been confronted in her home earlier that morning by a man with a knife, and that he had sexually assaulted her. She described her assailant's age, race, height, build, and facial hair, and gave a detailed description of his clothing as consisting of a white thermal undershirt, black pants with a silver or gold buckle, a brown leather three-quarter-length coat, and a dark knit cap that he wore pulled down around his eyes.

That same day, petitioner Jerome Franks coincidentally was taken into custody for an assault involving a 15-year-old girl, Brenda, six days earlier. After his formal arrest, and while awaiting a bail hearing in Family Court, petitioner allegedly stated to Robert McClements, the youth officer accompanying him, that he was surprised the bail hearing was "about Brenda B. I know her. I thought you said Bailey. I don't know her."[1]

Detective Brooks and Detective Larry D. Gray then submitted a sworn affidavit to a Justice of the Peace in Dover, in support of a warrant to search petitioner's apartment. In paragraph 8 of the affidavit's "probable cause page," mention was made of petitioner's statement to McClements. In paragraph 10, it was noted that the description of the assailant given to the police by Mrs. Bailey included the above-mentioned clothing. Finally, the affidavit also described the attempt made by police to confirm that petitioner's typical outfit matched that of the assailant. Paragraph 15 recited: "On Tuesday, 3/9/76, your affiant contacted Mr. James Williams and Mr. Wesley Lucas of the Delaware Youth Center where Jerome Franks is employed and did have personal conversation with both these people."[1]

Paragraphs 16 and 17 respectively stated: "Mr. James Williams revealed to your affiant that the normal dress of Jerome Franks does consist of a white knit thermal undershirt and a brown leather jacket," and "Mr. Wesley Lucas revealed to your affiant that in addition to the thermal undershirt and jacket, Jerome Franks often wears a dark green knit hat."[1]

A warrant was then issued on the basis of this affidavit.Pursuant to the warrant, police searched Frank's apartment and found a white thermal undershirt, a knit hat, dark pants, and a leather jacket, and, on petitioner's kitchen table, a single-blade knife. All these ultimately were introduced in evidence at trial.

Prior to the trial, however, Frank's counsel filed a written motion to suppress the clothing and the knife found in the search; this motion alleged that the warrant, on its face, did not show probable cause, and that the search and seizure were in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. At the hearing on the motion to suppress, defense counsel orally amended the challenge to include an attack on the veracity of the warrant affidavit; he also specifically requested the right to call as witnesses Detective Brooks, Wesley Lucas of the Youth Center, and James D. Morrison, formerly of the Youth Center.Counsel asserted that Lucas and Morrison would testify that neither had been personally interviewed by the warrant affiants, and that, although they might have talked to another police officer, any information given by them to that officer was "somewhat different" from what was recited in the affidavit. Defense counsel charged that the misstatements were included in the affidavit not inadvertently, but in "bad faith." Counsel also sought permission to call Officer McClements and petitioner as witnesses, to seek to establish that petitioner's courthouse statement to police had been obtained in violation of petitioner's Miranda rights, and that the search warrant was thereby tainted as the fruit of an illegally obtained confession. Id. at 17, 27.[1]

In rebuttal, the State's attorney argued in detail, App. 124, (a) that Del. Code Ann., Tit. 11, §§ 2306, 2307 (1974), contemplated that any challenge to a search warrant was to be limited to questions of sufficiency based on the face of the affidavit; (b) that, purportedly, a majority of the States whose practice was not dictated by statute observed such a rule; and (c) that federal cases on the issue were to be distinguished because of Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(e). He also noted that the Supreme Court of the United States had reserved the general issue of subfacial challenge to veracity in Rendorf v. United States, when it disposed of that case on the ground that, even if a veracity challenge were permitted, the alleged factual inaccuracies in that case's affidavit "were of only peripheral relevancy to the showing of probable cause, and, not being within the personal knowledge of the affiant, did not go to the integrity of the affidavit."[2] The State objected to petitioner's "going behind [the warrant affidavit] in any way," and argued that the court must decide petitioner's motion "on the four corners" of the affidavit.[1]

The trial court sustained the State's objection to petitioner's proposed evidence. The motion to suppress was denied, and the clothing and knife were admitted as evidence at the ensuing trial. Tr.192-196. Petitioner was convicted. In a written motion for judgment of acquittal and/or new trial, Franks repeated his objection to the admission of the evidence, stating that he "should have been allowed to impeach the Affidavit used in the Search Warrant to show purposeful misrepresentation of information contained therein." The motion was denied, and Franks was sentenced to two consecutive terms of 25 years each and an additional consecutive life sentence. On appeal, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed.[1][3] On remand, the Supreme Court of Delaware once again affirmed Franks' conviction.[4] As of 2018, Franks is still serving his sentence at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center.[5]


The Supreme Court of the United States held that "Where the defendant makes a substantial preliminary showing that a false statement knowingly and intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the truth, was included by the affiant in the warrant affidavit, and if the allegedly false statement is necessary to the finding of probable cause, the Fourth Amendment, as incorporated in the Fourteenth Amendment, requires that a hearing be held at the defendant's request. The trial court here therefore erred in refusing to examine the adequacy of petitioner's proffer of misrepresentation in the warrant affidavit."[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ Rendorf v. United States, 376 U.S. 528, 531-32 (1964).
  3. ^ Franks v. State, 373 A.2d 578 (Del. 1977).
  4. ^ Franks v. State, 398 A.2d 783 (Del. 1979).
  5. ^

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