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Criminal Practice – Search & Seizure – Reliable Informant – Middleman’s Drug Buys

Teresa Bruno, Opinions Editor//April 24, 2018//

Criminal Practice – Search & Seizure – Reliable Informant – Middleman’s Drug Buys

Teresa Bruno, Opinions Editor//April 24, 2018//

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Where a reliable confidential informant gave money to a middleman, who took the money into defendant’s house, came out of the house, and provided drugs to the informant, a police detective’s affidavit to that effect was sufficient to support a search warrant for defendant’s house.

We affirm the trial court’s denial of defendant’s motion to suppress.

On two occasions, Raleigh Police Detective Ladd personally observed his reliable confidential source meet a middleman and travel to defendant’s residence, where the middleman entered and exited shortly thereafter. The confidential source, who had been searched and supplied with money to purchase controlled substances, provided Det. Ladd with MDMA and heroin after his interaction with the middleman.

Det. Ladd also observed other traffic in and out of defendant’s residence. Det. Ladd’s experience and personal observations set forth in the affidavit were sufficient to establish probable cause to believe that controlled substances would probably be found in defendant’s residence.

Based on Det. Ladd’s training and experience, the conduct of the middleman, and Det. Ladd’s personal observations, the magistrate could reasonably infer that the middleman obtained MDMA and heroin from defendant’s residence. Further, the magistrate could reasonably infer that there would probably be additional controlled substances at that location.

Moreover, the magistrate could reasonably infer that the middleman did not have the MDMA or heroin in his possession when he met the confidential source, and his purpose in traveling to defendant’s residence was to obtain the controlled substance the confidential source supplied to Det. Ladd. Based on the totality of the circumstances, the magistrate had a substantial basis for concluding probable cause existed to believe controlled substances were located on the premises of 3988 Neeley Street in Raleigh.



(Zachary, J.) Because of the lack of information concerning the reliability of the unknown middleman, the lack of detail regarding the controlled purchases, and the lack of independently corroborated facts contained in the affidavit, probable cause to search defendant’s home was not established, and I respectfully dissent.

Although the confidential informant’s veracity was established by his history of reliability with law enforcement, the confidential informant did not accompany the middleman into defendant’s home. The confidential informant did not observe the alleged drug transactions taking place, nor is this a case in which any hand-to-hand transactions were observed by law enforcement officers. Further, the affidavit does not contain information implicating defendant’s home from the outset.

The middleman was not searched before or after the alleged purchases, and the confidential informant was not searched after he met privately with the middleman before traveling to defendant’s home. The confidential informant did not wear an audio or video surveillance device during his interactions with the unknown middleman.

The essence of the affidavit established at most that the unknown middleman claimed to have purchased the drugs when he was inside defendant’s home. I do not believe that it is constitutionally permissible for the officers or the magistrate to take an unknown middleman at his word, and I will not do so.

State v. Frederick (Lawyers Weekly No. 011-137-18, 23 pp.) (Philip Berger Jr., J.) (Valerie Zachary, J., dissenting) Appealed from Wake County Superior Court (W. Osmond Smith III, J.) J. Aldean Webster III for the state; Amanda Hitchcock for defendant. N.C. App.


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