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Law School Case Brief

State v. Barton - 219 Conn. 529, 594 A.2d 917 (1991)

Rule:

The "totality of the circumstances" analysis of the probable cause requirement means that when a search warrant affidavit is based on information provided to the police by confidential informants, the magistrate should examine the affidavit to determine whether it adequately describes both the factual basis of the informant's knowledge and the basis on which the police have determined that the information is reliable. If the warrant affidavit fails to state in specific terms how the informant gained his knowledge or why the police believe the information to be trustworthy, however, the magistrate can also consider all the circumstances set forth in the affidavit to determine whether, despite these deficiencies, other objective indicia of reliability reasonably establish that probable cause to search exists. In making this determination, the magistrate is entitled to draw reasonable inferences from the facts presented.

Facts:

Defendant Barton was charged with the crimes of possession of marihuana with intent to sell and possession of marihuana. The trial court concluded that the affidavit in support of the search warrant did not adequately set forth the unnamed informant's "basis of knowledge," and therefore, failed to establish probable cause. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion to suppress, which the appellate court affirmed. The State of Connecticut sought further review of a judgment granting defendant's motion to suppress a substitute information and dismissing the information on the basis that the affidavit accompanying the search warrant application failed to state the informant’s “basis of knowledge.”

Issue:

Is it necessary to state informant’s “basis of knowledge” in an affidavit accompanying search warrant to conclude that probable exists?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court of Connecticut held that as a matter of state constitutional law, the task of the magistrate issuing the warrant is to make a practical, nontechnical decision whether there is a fair probability of finding contraband or evidence of a crime in a particular place.  In coming to that decision, the magistrate must consider all the circumstances set forth in the affidavit, including the factual circumstances from which the "veracity" and the "basis of knowledge" of persons supplying hearsay information can be determined. The Court reversed the judgment and remanded the case to the appellate court with direction to reverse the judgment of the trial court and to remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings.

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