Commonwealth v. Wallace, 2008: Anticipatory Search Warrants

by | Jul 22, 2008

A new case has come down from the Pennsylvania Superior Court, reversing a trial courts suppression of evidence obtained by an anticipatory search warrant. The decision, Commonwealth v. Wallace, 2008 Pa. Super. 144 (Pa. Super. 2008), finds that a warrant issued pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 203 (F) was sufficient where the affiant “explains . . . the manner in which the [case] was brought to the attention of [law enforcement]; the steps taken by [law enforcement] to corroborate and verify the information supplied by the informant; the timing of her investigation; and the precise nature of the triggering event, namely the controlled buy.”

This case involved an informant who provided information to law enforcement that drugs would be found at a home, and that a controlled purchase of the drugs could be made. Once a police officer corroborated the information by the informant about the name of the person, she sought a search warrant. The execution of the warrant was contingent upon the completion of the controlled buy by the informant. The Superior Court reversed the trial court’s order suppressing the evidence.

The problem with this case is that, at the time the police officer brought the warrant to the issuing authority (who issues the warrant), there was no proof of illegal activity. All the police had was a tip by an informant, and they list one prior successful use of the informant in the warrant. At the time the search warrant issued, the controlled buy had not yet occurred. Therefore, there was not probable cause at the time the warrant issued, which is required.

There’s no indiciation that the defendant has appealed this case, but lets watch and see.

If you enjoyed this post, check out this article about criminal defense.

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