Can peace officers use information from several years ago to obtain a search warrant?
Yes, as long as the officers show in the warrant affidavit that the information is part of an ongoing criminal investigation.
Officers with a crime task force received information that Gary Thomas was selling crack cocaine. The officers were able to arrange for a confidential informant to buy crack cocaine from Thomas several different times. From the large amounts of crack that Thomas was selling, the task force labeled him a large-scale drug dealer and began to conduct surveillance on him. Another CI told the task force about an upcoming drug shipment for Thomas, so the officers obtained several search warrants. One warrant was for a storage unit that some of the officers witnessed Thomas use. They uncovered more than 700 grams of cocaine, about $21,000 in cash, a 9mm handgun, and some paperwork belonging to Thomas. More search warrants followed this drug bust, and more drugs, money, and weapons were found at various locations used by Thomas. He filed a motion to suppress the evidence because he alleged the information officers used to get the first search warrant was stale, so no probable cause existed to search the storage unit.
Why this case is important:
The court denied the motion to suppress because, although some of the information the task force relied on was from years before, the information was part of an ongoing investigation of Thomas. A court will find that evidence collected over time for the same investigation doesn’t mean the older information has gone “stale.” Plus, in this case, the task force had recent observations of Thomas using the storage unit, and two CIs gave a recent report on Thomas’s drug activity.
Keep in mind:
If you’ve got a continuing investigation on a suspect, the older information you’ve collected won’t be considered stale so long as you can show that your investigation has been ongoing. So make sure you also have recent evidence documented in your warrant affidavit.
Visit the Third District Court of Appeals
website to view the entire opinion.