Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Arrestee's Information Reliable Enough to Supprt Arrest

US v. White: A gentleman named Ali arrived in Charleston, West Virginia, and was arrested for possession of crack. He cooperated with investigators and agreed to set up a controlled purchase of cocaine from White later the same day. Ali set up the deal on the phone (while investigators watched) and said that White agreed to sell him nine ounces of cocaine at the Family Dollar parking lot. A vehicle, which Ali identified as White's, appeared at the Family Dollar parking lot, briefly, before it drove to a nearby house. White called Ali and told him that he had to move the deal because the parking lot was "too hot" and designated another location. On the way there, White was pulled over. He refused consent to search the car. After a second drug dog alerted on the driver's door of White's car, officers searched the trunk and found 89.5 grams of cocaine.

White sought to suppress the cocaine recovered during the search of the car. The district court denied the motion, concluding that Ali's information provided to the investigators was reliable and that they had probable cause to believe White was transporting drugs when he was stopped (alternatively, that they had reasonable suspicion to make a Terry stop, which ripened into probable cause). White pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and was sentenced to 240 months in prison.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's suppression ruling and the sentence imposed. It agreed with the district court that Ali was a reliable source and that the investigators had probable cause to support White's arrest and a search of his car. As the court noted, "every bit of information that Ali provided was quickly borne out by actual events." The court dismissed White's claim of sentencing error in a footnote.

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