A recent case out of the Eight District Court of Appeals dealt with the issue of whether a search warrant obtained by law enforcement was supported by sufficient probable cause to justify a search of the defendant’s residence.
The case, Ohio v. Tutt, began when members of the Cleveland Police Department conducted two “controlled buys” of heroin outside Tutt’s residence. Based on the affidavit of a detective, the police obtained a search warrant to search Tutt’s residence.
The search warrant authorized the police to search the residence and its curtilage for “heroin, other narcotic drugs and/or controlled substances . . . instruments and paraphernalia used in the taking of drugs and/or preparation of illegal drugs for sale . . . any and all evidence of communications used in the furtherance of drug trafficking activity . . . and all evidence pertaining to the violations of the drugs laws of the State of Ohio.”
The police executed the warrant the same day, where they found several bags of heroin, crack cocaine and marijuana, several scales and grinders with drug residue and numerous cell phones, guns and ammunition. Tutt was indicted on drug trafficking, drug possession, possessing criminal tools, possessing a defaced firearm, receiving stolen property and tampering with evidence.
Tutt filed a motion to suppress the evidence seized during the search arguing that the underlying affidavit failed to demonstrate probable cause for the issuance of the search warrant. The trial court denied the motion. Tutt pled no contest to the charges. However, Tutt appealed his convictions, raising several errors, including the trial court erring when it overruled his motion to suppress.
Probable Cause for the Search Warrant
Tutt contended that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress because the affidavit supporting the search warrant did not establish sufficient probable cause to justify a search of his residence. The appellate court, however, disagreed.
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects against unreasonable search and seizures, and a warrant may only be issued if supported by probable cause by oath or affirmation that particularly describes the place to be searched and the items to be seized. In determining whether probable cause exists, the issuing judge must make a “common sense decision whether, given all of the circumstances set forth in the affidavit . . . there is a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place.” To establish probable cause to search a home, the facts “must be sufficient to justify a conclusion that the property that is the subject of the search is probably on the premises to search.” Furthermore, the “nexus between the items sought and the place to be searched depends on all the circumstances of each individual case.”
Here, the search warrant was issued based on the affidavit of a detective. This affidavit was supported by his statement that he received information from a confidential informant, two controlled buys were set up, and the confidential informant identified Tutt as the partner of the person from whom the confidential informant purchased heroin.
Tutt made two arguments regarding the warrant. First, Tutt argued that the affidavit did not specify the reasons why contraband would be present at his residence. Second, Tutt contended that the affidavit did not support a finding of probable cause to search his residence because no individual (i.e., Tutt’s partners who sold the drugs) lived at Tutt’s residence.
The appellate court overruled both arguments. The court held that the detective disclosed all the facts from which he drew the inference that evidence of drug trafficking was taking place in Tutt’s residence (i.e., police observed drug sellers leave Tutt’s residence and proceed directly to the confidential informant to sell drugs, the buys occurred within a week of the issuance of the warrant, and one of Tutt’s partners had listed Tutt’s residence as his address). These facts were sufficient to demonstrate why contraband would be found in Tutt’s residence.
The appellate court held that the issuing judge had a substantial basis for finding a fair probability that drugs and other items specified in the search warrant would be found in Tutt’s residence. Thus, the appellate court upheld the trial court’s refusal to suppress the evidence against Tutt.
Columbus and Delaware, Ohio Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Columbus or Delaware, Ohio, contact Johnson Legal, LLC and speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Attorney David Johnson of Johnson Legal, LLC will discuss your case and assist you in fighting the charges. Call (614) 987-0192 or send an email to schedule a consultation regarding your criminal offense case.