This is the third post in our series discussing the handling of drug trafficking charges in Arkansas. Our last article discussed search and seizure issues which stem from police surveillance. It is important to understand that law enforcement officials sometimes violate a defendant’s rights during the course of an investigation. In this post we will look at an important topic – challenging the use of confidential informants in a trafficking case.
Confidential informants factor into drug trafficking cases in two ways. First, information they offer to police is often used as the basis for a search warrant. Second, they often testify against the defendant at trial. In this post we will address the first of these issues and our next article will address the second.
Arkansas police often rely upon the statements of confidential informants when applying for search warrants in drug trafficking cases. Police, however, are under an obligation to ensure that information upon which they base a warrant application is reliable. If it turns out that the informant intentionally or recklessly provided false information, and such information was in a warrant application, then the defendant can challenge whether the warrant should have been issued. Under Franks v. Delaware the Court will be required to review the warrant application after striking the false or misleading information. If the redacted application does not support a finding of probable cause (which is required for the issuance of a search warrant) then any evidence recovered during the search will be excluded from Court proceedings. If, on the other hand, the warrant application included other evidence which, by itself, supported a finding of probable cause then the search will be upheld.
The first step in challenging the use of a confidential informant’s information, within a warrant application, is to file a Motion to Suppress evidence seized as a result of the warrant. After this Motion is filed the Court will hold what is known as an “evidentiary hearing” at which testimony will be heard as to whether the informant’s information should be considered reliable. If the informant is found to have misrepresented facts, and if there is not enough independent information to have upheld the search, then the evidence will be excluded from Court proceedings. In many drug trafficking cases this exclusion would essentially end the matter.
Our Little Rock criminal defense lawyers protect the rights of those charged with drug trafficking and have over twenty-five years of combined experienced protecting the accused in our state. Contact our offices today to speak with an attorney. In addition to Little Rock, our lawyers also handle matters in Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Springdale, Jonesboro, North Little Rock, Conway, Rogers, Pine Bluff, and throughout the rest of Arkansas. Contact us today.