Fri April 27, 2012
State Supreme Court considering search and seizure powers of police
The state Supreme Court could decide to limit the search and seizure of powers of police in drug cases.
At issue in the case is whether police can use information from anonymous tipsters to stop and search a car suspected of carrying drugs. In August of 2008, prompted by an anonymous tip, Marinette police stopped Joseph Millers van and found cocaine and marijuana. Miller pleaded no contest to a drug selling charge. But his attorney Martha Askins says the court should have suppressed the drug evidence because the tip for the traffic stop came from an unreliable source who may have been another drug dealer just trying to eliminate the competition, "The more anonymous the tip, the more unreliable it is. The reason that they're confidential informants is that they mix with criminal elements. That's how they get their information. For all we know these individuals were involved in drug trafficking themselves and they were getting rid of Miller."
But assistant Attorney General David Perlman urged the court not to limit the ability of police to use such informants. He says in this case despite the anonymous nature of the information it turned out that where there was smoke there was also fire, "I'm saying that now that we have the fire the smoke can now be drawn to be connected to the fire. I am not asking the court to find a bunch of smoke and deduce a fire. There is a fire here already."
The appeals court agreed with Perlman and upheld Miller's conviction, but the supreme court could decide to set a higher standard of reliability for anonymous tips in future cases.