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Warrant Based on Informant’s Tip Upheld by Arizona Court

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona marijuana crime case involving a defendant’s challenge to a warrant that was obtained based on information that was provided by an informant after her own arrest for drug possession. The case presents important issues for those charged with crimes based on an investigation that may have included testimony from a potentially biased witness.

Prison FenceThe case also illustrates how a witness’ recantation of a statement will not always result in the information being disregarded.

The Facts of the Case

A woman (the informant) was arrested after police discovered a significant amount of marijuana in her backpack. After the informant’s arrest, she made a series of statements to police indicating that she obtained the marijuana from the defendant, who had a much larger supply. The informant explained that the defendant was flying in marijuana on light-weight planes and also that she saw a gun at the defendant’s house.

Taking this information, the police obtained a nighttime search warrant for the defendant’s home. After executing the warrant while the defendant was not home, the police seized evidence leading to the defendant being charged with selling marijuana and several related crimes.

In a pre-trial motion to suppress, the defendant sought to exclude the evidence based on the fact that the warrant was improperly issued. The defendant argued that much of the evidence included in the affidavit was contradicted by other evidence that was intentionally left out of the affidavit, giving the judge who approved the warrant an incomplete picture.

The defendant argued that the warrant affidavit should have included the fact that the informant initially denied possession of the marijuana when arrested, potentially indicating that she could have made up the information about the defendant to get out of trouble. The defendant also argued that the affidavit should have included the fact that the informant was addicted to several drugs at the time, potentially making her less credible.

At the hearing on the motion, the informant testified. While the informant never stated that she fabricated the information, she did distance herself from her own statements when asked about them. For example, she claimed that she was on “a lot of pills” at the time, and she did not remember making any statements to the police. When asked if she was guessing about the information she provided, she explained, “I’m not guessing, I just—I can’t see myself saying like a lot of these things.” The trial court denied the defendant’s motion, and he was ultimately convicted. The defendant then appealed.

The court ultimately upheld the validity of the search warrant, explaining that the determination of whether the informant was credible at the suppression hearing was up to the trial judge. In so holding, the court noted that the defendant failed to show that any of the information contained in the affidavit was false or misleading.

Have You Been Arrested or Subject to a Search Warrant?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with a marijuana crime, or your home has recently been the subject of a search warrant, you should contact the Law Office of James E. Novak. Attorney Novak is a dedicated Arizona criminal defense attorney who provides aggressive, zealous representation, ensuring that his clients’ rights are respected. To learn more, call 480-413-1499 to schedule a free consultation to confidentially discuss your case with Attorney Novak.

Additional Resources:

Other Articles of Interest from The Law Office of James Novak’s Award Winning Blog:

The Importance of Effective Cross-Examination of Witnesses in Arizona Criminal Defense Cases, Arizona DUI and Criminal Defense Attorney Blog, April 25, 2018

Arizona’s Good-Faith Exception, Arizona DUI and Criminal Defense Attorney Blog, May 15, 2018

Arizona Appellate Court Holds Police Had Reason to Order Passenger Back into Car and Conduct Search, Arizona DUI and Criminal Defense Attorney Blog, May 21, 2018