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People v. Holmes

People v. Holmes

Court Discusses the Creditably and Reliability of Information Received by Informant
The defendant was arrested after a registered informer, told the police that a man fitting his description was selling cocaine in front of a bar in Manhattan. The informer stated the clothing that was being worn by the defendant, age group, his race and where he stored the cocaine in his clothing. Two police officers searched the defendant who matched the description of the informer and they found 19 tinfoil packets of cocaine. The defendant was charged with attempted criminal possession of a dangerous drug in the 4th degree and was convicted of the charge. The defendant was sentence to a term of one year imprisonment and later appealed the conviction. The ground of appeal was that there was no probable cause for the warrantless search by the police officers as such the cocaine found on the defendant’s person should have been suppressed.

The majority decision of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court held that the search was lawful because of the assistance of the informant. The informant gave the police a detailed description of the defendant as where he hid the controlled substance which was viewed as probable cause to search him. The requirements of People v. Hanlon, 36 N.Y.2d 549 were fulfilled based on the facts in this case, that is, the reliability of the information and the trustworthiness of the informant to use the information as hearsay evidence. The police officers who arrested the defendant stated that the informant gave very precise information such as where he was located, where the drugs were kept and the type of drugs rather than merely stating that the defendant was carry drugs. The credibility of the informant was an important issue but the information that he provided proved that he was trustworthy. Additionally, the informant had a proven track of being correct, as on a previous occasion he assisted in the arrest of a couple who sold heroin that was hidden in the seller’s bra.

The minority of the Appellate Division was of the opinion that the motion to supress the finding of the cocaine should have been granted. The minority believed that in determining whether the information by the informant was reliable, the test laid down in Aguilar v. Texas, 378 U.S. 108, and in Spinelli v. U.S., 393 U.S. 410. The information received must be trustworthy and the informant must be credible. The prosecution relied only on the testimony of the police officer who did not speak directly to the informant and he did not remember who passed the information to him. There was no memorandum concerning the call as it was lost. The officer could not remember the information received about the defendant’s description as it was contained in the lost memorandum even though the defendant was arrested based on the description. There was no way that the trace the information to check whether the information was credible or that the informer was trustworthy. The only information which was verified was where the drug was found. The search of the defendant was illegal even though the defendant had contraband.

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