I used to think that challenging invalid search warrants was useless in SC courts – trial judges would find a way to rule in the state’s favor, and appellate courts would find a way to uphold the conviction.
I’ve always challenged them anyway, and I’m encouraged by the SC Supreme Court’s decision last month in State v. Dill, where they not only reversed because there was insufficient probable cause, but they also called out the officer for lying (politely, of course).
What were the facts of Dill, and why did the Court reverse?
What is Manufacturing Methamphetamine in SC?
In most cases, the police don’t bust in the door while a person is actively cooking meth in their kitchen. Instead, they look for the ingredients that are required to cook meth and they arrest a person if most of the ingredients are present.
What are the Ingredients for Cooking Meth?
In Dill, the police seized:
- Camping fuel;
- Hydrogen peroxide;
- A bottle of unknown fluid; and
- A roll of aluminum foil.
All of which were then photographed by the police and destroyed without testing or fingerprinting – because meth ingredients are dangerous and might explode.
Okay. I have to make a confession here. All these items are in my house as well – am I subject to arrest for manufacturing meth? Do you have these items in your house too?
What didn’t police find?
- Empty blister packs of pseudo-ephedrine;
- Lithium strips or batteries;
- Drain cleaner;
- Cold packs;
- Sulfuric acid; or
All of the things that, together with the things that they did find, may indicate that someone is or has been cooking meth…
No Probable Cause and a Lying Police Officer
The search warrant affidavit said 1) that there was an active meth lab in operation at the defendant’s address and 2) that a confidential informant working for the Sheriff’s Office saw numerous items at the address that are used in manufacturing meth.
Wait, the officer must establish the reliability of the informant, but they didn’t put it in the affidavit… No problem, you can fix that by testifying that you “supplemented your affidavit” verbally to the magistrate – of course, the officer testified at the suppression hearing that he supplemented his affidavit by telling the magistrate that the CI was reliable and had been used in two prior cases.
As Dill’s attorney pointed out at trial, the search warrant affidavit itself was inconsistent – stating that there was an active meth lab but then saying there were “numerous items” present that could be used in manufacturing meth.
The state argued that they did not have to reveal the identity of the CI, because it wasn’t really a CI after all – it was only a “mere tipster.” (Per case law, they would not have to reveal the identity of a “mere tipster.”) Although the search warrant affidavit itself says that the “tipster” was a CI working for the Sheriff’s Office…
The officer then changed his testimony as well, stating that the CI (or “mere tipster”) had given him information about a “possible” meth lab…
The Court found that there was no probable cause for the magistrate to issue the search warrant in this case – there were multiple inconsistencies in the officer’s affidavit and testimony, there was no corroboration of the information that was provided, and there was no information provided that would support “the credibility of the informant and the basis of his knowledge,” as required by Illinois v. Gates.
SC Drug Manufacturing Defense Lawyer in Myrtle Beach
Manufacturing meth cases can be filled with legal issues – especially when police are sloppy or dishonest. If your home was searched with an invalid search warrant, the remedy is suppression of any evidence found and dismissal of your case.
If you’ve been charged with any drug offense in the Myrtle Beach, SC area, including possession, possession with intent to distribute, distribution, trafficking, or manufacturing, call criminal defense attorney Daniel A. Selwa now at (843) 492-5449 or email us through our website to see how we can help.