Search Warrants using a CI or confidential informant.
Search warrants are the main weapon used by police officers to search the home of a suspect. Search warrants can be obtained several ways. A common practice used by the drug task force and vice units is the use of confidential informants to obtain a search warrant. Confidential informants are used in various ways by the police department to gather the required information to obtain a search warrant. An informant may buy drugs while wearing a wire. An informant may simply go to a home and purchase drugs or narcotics while under surveillance by the police. No matter how the police use the confidential informant, often times the police are not required to disclose the identity of the informant to obtain a search warrant.
What is required?
When obtaining a search warrant using a CI the police must be able to meet a constitutional test. This test is a two part test known as the Aguliar-Spinelli. Aguliar-Spinelli requires the police to prove the (1) basis of knowledge of the informant; and (2) the veracity of the informant. In plain English, the police must show why the informant has the information and whether the informant is known to be truthful
The second requirement, the veracity of the informant, was recently challenged in the case of State v. Woods. In Woods, the court found that the police had not satisfied the second prong of Aguliar-Spinelli and suppressed all evidence found as a result of the search warrant. In Woods, that means all the evidence against the defendant was suppressed.
In the search warrant the officer had stated this about the informant:
“provided Reliable & Credible information in the past concerning crack cocaine and the trafficking of crack cocaine."
Based on this information, the magistrate issued the search warrant. The court found that this type of statement was conclusory and not indicative of whether the information is accurate. The court further explained that if prior information by the informant had led to convictions then that would satisfy the requirement. Because the officer failed to correctly follow the warrant requirements, the jury verdict was reversed and the case was sent back to the trial court. The case will likely be much different now that all evidence has been suppressed.
This illustrates how quickly a case can completely change upon a thorough review of the case by a highly skilled attorney. If you or someone you know is facing a criminal charge with a search warrant, contact me today.