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Conviction Reversed Due to Bad Search Warrant

A search warrant is a judicial authorization to search a person or place. To be valid, a search warrant must be supported by probable cause to suspect that the search may reveal evidence of a crime. The probable cause is alleged within an affidavit presented to a judge or magistrate when seeking the warrant. In the recent Tennessee case of State v Hall, M2013-02841-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 10-3-2014), the Court of Criminal Appeals concluded that the affidavit describing a controlled drug buy at a residence within seventy-two hours did not establish probable cause to support an issued warrant to search that residence and the people present there.

Conviction Reversed Due to Bad Search Warrant

A search warrant is a judicial authorization to search a person or place. To be valid, a search warrant must be supported by probable cause to suspect that the search may reveal evidence of a crime. The probable cause is alleged within an affidavit presented to a judge or magistrate when seeking the warrant. In the recent Tennessee case of State v Hall, M2013-02841-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 10-3-2014), the Court of Criminal Appeals concluded that the affidavit describing a controlled drug buy at a residence within seventy-two hours did not establish probable cause to support an issued warrant to search that residence and the people present there.

Circumstantial Evidence Supports Probable Cause

In Tennessee criminal cases, circumstantial evidence is as good as direct evidence, as long as it is convincing. Circumstantial evidence can support probable cause for arrest. In the recent case of State v. Seay, M2011-02769-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 7-16-2013), the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals determined the circumstantial evidence that the Defendant had been driving a vehicle on a public road while his license was canceled, revoked or suspended was sufficient to support the Defendant's arrest, which then led to the discovery of cocaine in a pill fob attached to the Defendant's key ring.

Circumstantial Evidence Supports Probable Cause

In Tennessee criminal cases, circumstantial evidence is as good as direct evidence, as long as it is convincing. Circumstantial evidence can support probable cause for arrest. In the recent case of State v. Seay, M2011-02769-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 7-16-2013), the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals determined the circumstantial evidence that the Defendant had been driving a vehicle on a public road while his license was canceled, revoked or suspended was sufficient to support the Defendant's arrest, which then led to the discovery of cocaine in a pill fob attached to the Defendant's key ring.

Probable Cause Established by Observation of Speeding

There must be probable cause or reasonable suspicion for a police officer to initiate an investigatory stop of a vehicle. Absent a warrant for a search or arrest, there must be some basis known to the officer for believing an occupant of a vehicle may have committed or may be about to commit a crime, before the officer has the authority to selectively detain the vehicle for even a brief investigation. In the recent case of State v. Mackinnon, E2012=00594-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 5-29-2013), the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the trial court's finding of probable cause where a trained police officer estimated the Defendant's vehicle to be speeding.

Probable Cause Established by Observation of Speeding

There must be probable cause or reasonable suspicion for a police officer to initiate an investigatory stop of a vehicle. Absent a warrant for a search or arrest, there must be some basis known to the officer for believing an occupant of a vehicle may have committed or may be about to commit a crime, before the officer has the authority to selectively detain the vehicle for even a brief investigation. In the recent case of State v. Mackinnon, E2012=00594-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 5-29-2013), the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the trial court's finding of probable cause where a trained police officer estimated the Defendant's vehicle to be speeding.

Evidence Sufficient to Support Probable Cause for Arrest

Before a person may be arrested for a crime, there must be probable cause to believe that the person has committed a crime for which an arrest can occur. The information must be reasonably trustworthy. The information can be presented to a judge or magistrate who can then issue an arrest warrant. But police officers acting on probable cause can also make an arrest without a warrant. In many criminal cases, whether there was cause for the initial arrest becomes an important issue to examine because evidence collected as a result of the arrest (such as from a search of or custodial interrogation of the accused) may not be admissible if the initial arrest was unlawful. One recent case examined by the Tennessee Supreme Court, in which they had to address the issue of probable cause for arrest, was State v. Echols, E2009-01697-SC-R11-CD (Tenn. 10-10-2012), which arose from Knox County.

Evidence Sufficient to Support Probable Cause for Arrest

Before a person may be arrested for a crime, there must be probable cause to believe that the person has committed a crime for which an arrest can occur. The information must be reasonably trustworthy. The information can be presented to a judge or magistrate who can then issue an arrest warrant. But police officers acting on probable cause can also make an arrest without a warrant. In many criminal cases, whether there was cause for the initial arrest becomes an important issue to examine because evidence collected as a result of the arrest (such as from a search of or custodial interrogation of the accused) may not be admissible if the initial arrest was unlawful. One recent case examined by the Tennessee Supreme Court, in which they had to address the issue of probable cause for arrest, was State v. Echols, E2009-01697-SC-R11-CD (Tenn. 10-10-2012), which arose from Knox County.

6th Circuit: Sawed-Off Shotgun is Intrinsically Suspicious

Having a visible sawed-off shotgun in your vehicle is enough to trigger a warrantless search and seizure. In the recent 6th Circuit Court of Appeals case of U.S. v. Carmack, 09-5819 (6th Cir. 6-7-2011), the Defendant triggered a federal investigation after he sent a counterfeit postal money order to a company that sells law enforcement items. Federal investigators obtained a warrant to search his home for items related to the creation and use of counterfeit postal money orders. On the way into the home, a partially covered sawed-off shotgun was observed in a vehicle parked outside.

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