The informant plays a valuable role in a successful Minnesota drug bust. The informant could be a first time citizen informant with no criminal history performing his civic duty. This type of informant is presumed by the courts to be reliable. The informant could be a confidential informant known as a CI who has connections to the criminal underworld. This informant is not presumed to be reliable and  is often either paid by the police for his information or has been promised a favorable plea agreement in exchange for  information. Finally, there is the confidential reliable informant or CRI who has a proven track record of providing reliable information to the police in the past. This type of informant  is considered to be more trustworthy.

The information supplied  by an informant could be enough to establish probable cause for a narcotics arrest. The courts look to the “totality of the circumstances” and consider the credibility and veracity of the informant using a six factor test: (1) first-time citizen informants are presumed reliable; (2) an informant with a track record is considered currently reliable; (3) reliability can be established if police can corroborate the information supplied by an informant; (4) an informant is more reliable if he voluntarily contacts the police; (5) a controlled purchase of narcotics indicates reliability; and (6) an informant is slightly more reliable if he makes an incriminating statement.

 In a typical controlled buy scenario,  the informant  was caught in a drug bust and is offered a plea deal. The informant is told to call the suspect in the presence of the drug task force   to make arrangements for the purchase of a controlled substance like crack cocaine, marijuana or methamphetamine. During the phone call between the  CI and suspect, a meet time and location will be agreed upon for the exchange as well as  the quantity drugs to be purchased and  sale price. The CI provides the police with a description of the suspect and his car. The CI may even incriminate himself by telling  police he has  purchased drugs from the suspect in the past. The officer in charge will  brief the officers on the controlled buy arrangements. Officers will be assigned to  the “take down squad.” Their job will be to  arrest the suspect on command. Once briefed, the officers will  travel to the meet location and set up their surveillance. If a vehicle that matches the description of the suspect’s vehicle  arrives at the prescribed time and location, the lead officer may order the take down squad to stop the suspect vehicle and arrest the driver for a narcotics violation. Once the suspect is handcuffed and arrested, the officers will  search the suspects person and vehicle for narcotics.

Let’s assume 3 ounces of crack cocaine are located in the suspect’s jacket. What are the possible defenses to a drug sale charge? No probable cause to the arrest the suspect and   search his jacket incident to the arrest. Factors one, two and five do not apply. This CI is a “stool pigeon”  trying to work off his charges,  he has no proven track record and is not credible. No controlled purchase of narcotics actually took place prior to the arrest. This informant did not voluntarily come forward; he was caught in a drug bust so factor four does not apply. Even though the CI may have incriminated himself, no details about his prior purchase of drugs from the suspect are provided to enable a successful prosecution, so the fact he incriminated himself does not increase credibility. Based on the totality of the circumstances, the evidence in this case should be suppressed by the court and the case dismissed as the police lacked probable cause to arrest the suspect for a narcotics violation based on the information provided by the CI.

If you or someone you know has been arrested for a narcotics violation in Minnesota, call Minneapolis drug defense attorney Robert J. Shane for the “Best Defense” and a free phone consultation at (612) 339-1024.