Can a peace officer arrest a suspect if the officer establishes probable cause based solely on information from a confidential informant (CI)?
Yes, as long as the CI’s information is corroborated, the officer may arrest the suspect without personally witnessing any crime.
Police set up a controlled buy through a CI in order to make an arrest. The CI called his drug dealer, defendant Rashawn Gill, while officers listened to the CI’s end of the conversation. The CI told police that Gill would sell him five ounces of cocaine at a house on Vine Street and that Gill would be driving a green Acura. The officers saw Gill arrive at the meeting location in the green Acura and join a group of people in front of the house. Suspecting the buy was going down, the officers approached and identified themselves. Gill fled down the block, but officers caught up with him and directed him to get on the ground. The officers found a small amount of marijuana in Gill’s waistband, and they recovered a gun that Gill had hidden on a nearby porch. Gill was arrested, and officers later found five ounces of cocaine in the green Acura.
Why this case is important:
The court found that police had probable cause to arrest Gill even though they did not directly observe the transaction. The officers corroborated key elements of the CI’s tip: the color and make of the car Gill would be driving and the location of the arranged drug sale. The law doesn’t require that an illegal act be completed for sufficient probable cause to develop. The law only requires the existence of facts that could lead a reasonable person to believe an illegal act has occurred or is about to occur.
Keep in mind:
When you receive a tip from a CI, you might be able to use that tip not just to conduct a warrantless search, but also to make an arrest. However, you must corroborate the key information from the tip. And corroboration is even more important when the CI’s credibility is unknown to law enforcement.
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