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Virginia Appellate Court Affirms Conviction Based on Confidential Informant Tip

Tips given to law enforcement officers by confidential informants are often used to establish reasonable suspicion for a detention or probable cause for a search or arrest. State and federal constitutional protections still play a role in determining the legality of police interactions with the public, even when reliable tips from informants are involved. The Court of Appeals of Virginia recently ruled in favor of the state after a defendant challenged the legality of his detention based on a tip from a confidential informant that he was involved in commercial drug activity.

In the recently decided case, the defendant was arrested and charged with dealing drugs after police were notified of his activity by a confidential informant. Based on the tip from the informant that a man matching the description of the defendant was selling drugs on the street, detectives stopped the defendant for questioning. The defendant was handcuffed and made to wait with the police when a canine drug detection unit arrived. After the canine signaled to police that the man was in possession of narcotics, a search was performed, and police found drugs on him.

The defendant challenged the admission of the drugs at trial against him. He argued that the police did not have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to detain him while waiting for the drug dog to arrive. The trial court determined that the defendant’s detention was not an arrest and was instead an investigatory stop. Under Virginia and federal law, police are only required to show reasonable suspicion when making an investigatory stop. The trial court determined that the tip from the confidential informant was reliable enough to give the officers reasonable suspicion to detain him and wait for the dog to arrive. As a result of the decision, the defendant was convicted of the drug offenses and sentenced to three years in prison.

The defendant appealed the trial court ruling to the Virginia Court of Appeals, where the court accepted the trial court’s reasoning. The court agreed that tips from confidential informants must exhibit some indicia of reliability to constitute reasonable suspicion for a stop. The court found that in this instance, reasonable suspicion existed. The court relied heavily on the fact that the informat in question had previously given accurate information to the detective and that he had cooperated in controlled buys before. Because the informant had been reliable in the past, the court found that his tip was reliable enough to justify the police actions in detaining the defendant. As a result of the appellate ruling, the conviction against the defendant and his prison sentence will stand.

Are You Facing Criminal Charges?

Law enforcement officers are known to use whatever tricks they can to gather evidence of criminal activity against a defendant. Often, these police tactics are constitutionally questionable and could result in evidence being excluded from a criminal trial if properly challenged. If you or a loved one has been charged with a Virginia drug crime, the assistance of a qualified criminal defense lawyer at Robinson Law, PLLC can help you fight the charges against you. Our legal team understands the requirements for the admission of evidence in criminal trials, and we have successfully had evidence suppressed, and ultimately had the charges against our clients dismissed. If you’ve been accused of a crime, call 703-542-4008 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with one of our attorneys today.

 

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