00-01: Single Trash Pull Coupled with an Anonymous Tip is Insufficient for a Search Warrant
Case: Gesell v. State, 4th DCA, 25 FLW D70
Date: January 7, 2000
Facts: A detective with the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office received an anonymous phone call. The caller advised that there was a high volume of vehicular traffic at the suspect's residence between 4 P.M. and midnight. Because the visitors only stayed for a short period of time, the caller suspected that drugs were being sold at the house. The detective drove to the house at 2:00 A.M. and obtained a garbage bag from the curb. Inside the bag he found a small amount of marijuana. A search warrant was obtained and numerous illegal substances were recovered from the house. The defendant moved to suppress the evidence.
Ruling: The appellate court ruled that there was insufficient probable cause for the issuance of the search warrant. They held that a one-time trash pull in conjunction with an anonymous tip does not a support a reasonable conclusion that additional contraband would found in the house.
Note: The officers could have taken other steps to better develop their probable cause. The detective could have conducted surveillance on the house to see if a substantial number of persons did visit during the hours indicated by the caller. This would have corroborated the anonymous tip. The detective could have performed additional garbage pulls with the hope of finding more marijuana in order to establish a pattern of continuous drug activity occurring at the residence. Had either of these options been utilized, it would have strengthened the warrant's probable cause and probably would have resulted in the evidence not being suppressed.
For Further Information Contact:
Regional Legal Advisor
Florida Department of Law Enforcement
Orlando Regional Operations Center