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Vermont Supreme Court Upholds Adequacy of Warrant in Methamphetamine Conviction

In State v. Michael Cleland, 2016 VT 128 (Dec. 9, 2016), the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s denial of defendant’s motion to suppress evidence, finding that the affidavit submitted in support of the search warrant provided probable cause.

Issue: Following his conditional guilty plea to drug and child-cruelty charges, defendant appealed the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress evidence gathered from a search of his residence, arguing that the affidavit submitted in support of the search warrant failed to establish the requisite probable cause for issuance of the warrant. The affidavit contained hearsay evidence, including from informants, but also evidence from credible sources corroborated by police. Defendant himself provided evidence to police of his use and purchase of drugs. The affidavit also contained records of his purchase of a chemical precursor to methamphetamine, pseudoephedrine, commonly found in over-the-counter medicine, at illegal amounts.

Holding: The Supreme Court held that the affidavit in support of the warrant to search defendant’s residence was sufficient to provide probable cause. It held that the evidence in the affidavit satisfied the credibility prong of the Aguilar-Spinelli test; statements provided by two individuals, not previous informants, were either corroborated by the police or made against penal interests. The evidence in the affidavit satisfied the factual-basis prong of Aguilar-Spinelli, too: the individuals’ statements were based on first-hand knowledge, even if the individuals had not directly witnessed the crime.

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