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Appellate Court Finds “Imperfect” Controlled-Buy Following Confidential Tip Provided Police with Probable Cause to Obtain Warrant

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Massachusetts drug case discussing whether the police possessed probable cause to obtain the warrant they used to search the defendant’s apartment. Finding that the tip from a confidential informant gave police probable cause to believe the defendant was involved in the sale of narcotics, and followed by an “imperfectly” executed controlled-buy, the court reversed a lower court’s ruling granting the defendant’s motion to suppress.

Confidential InformantThe Facts of the Case

Police were given a tip by a confidential informant (CI) that the defendant sold cocaine from his apartment. The CI provided police with a description of the defendant, as well as his name and address. Police verified that a man by the defendant’s name lived at the address provided by the CI, and then arranged for the CI to make a controlled-buy from the defendant.

The CI was seen approaching the defendant’s foyer, and then seen a short time later leaving the defendant’s foyer. At no point was the defendant seen, and the CI was not seen entering the defendant’s home. When the CI returned to police, he provided them with cocaine and told the police it was obtained from the defendant.

Police secured a search warrant for the defendant’s apartment. Upon execution of the warrant, police found narcotics and paraphernalia. In a pre-trial motion to suppress, the defendant argued that the search warrant was defective because the police failed to establish that they had probable cause when they obtained the warrant. Specifically, the defendant claimed that police did not see the CI enter his home, or see him interact at all with the CI. The trial court granted the motion, and the Commonwealth appealed.

The Appellate Decision

The appellate court began by explaining that police must establish both the CI’s basis of knowledge, as well as his veracity in order to obtain a valid search warrant. The defendant conceded that the basis-of-knowledge prong was met by the fact that the CI told police he had very recently purchased cocaine from the defendant. However, the defendant argued that the police failed to establish the CI’s veracity.

The court continued to explain that if police are unable to establish a CI’s veracity through the relationship or prior dealings with the CI, they may do so through a properly executed controlled-buy. Here, the defendant claimed that the controlled buy conducted by police was insufficient to establish the CI’s veracity because the police did not witness the CI enter the defendant’s home or interact with him.

The court rejected this argument, explaining that the lower court’s analysis was overly technical. The court noted that the police saw the CI walk toward the door and return a short time later with cocaine he claimed to have procured from the defendant. This, the court held, was sufficient to give them probable cause to issue the warrant and search the defendant’s apartment.

Have You Been Arrested for a Boston Drug Crime?

If you have recently been arrested and charged in a Boston drug crime, you should contact the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy. Attorney Murphy is a dedicated Boston criminal defense attorney with extensive experience defending the rights of those accused with all types of felony and misdemeanor crimes, including drug and gun possession crimes. Attorney Murphy understands that he is entering the lives of his clients at a very difficult time, and works hard to earn his clients’ trust through zealous advocacy at every opportunity. To learn more, call 617-367-0450 to schedule a free consultation today.

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Massachusetts Court Reverses Indecent Assault Conviction Based on Insufficient Evidence, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published June 14, 2018

Massachusetts Court Upholds Officer’s Frisk Although It Was Not Justified at Its Inception, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published July 6, 2018