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Warrants – Staleness – Drug Trafficking

State v. Glover B. Jones, 2002 WI App 196, PFR filed 8/22/02
For Jones: Mark D. Richards

Issue/Holding: Although the age of the information in the warrant application – six months – gives pause, it isn’t sufficiently stale to defeat probable cause for drug trafficking.

¶22                        Jones argues that the key information in the warrant affidavit—the informant’s allegations—was over six months old.  In essence, Jones infers from the absence of additional incriminating information in the warrant affidavit that the police were unable to unearth new information in the interim.  Jones contends the absence of new information negates probable cause that he was currently engaged in criminal activity at the time police applied for the warrant. 

¶23                        We agree that the time lag in this case presents a close call.  However, there is good reason to defer to the warrant-issuing judge.  Drug trafficking is a crime that tends to occur over long periods of time.  See United States v. Nocella, 849 F.2d 33, 40 (1st Cir. 1988) (“By its very nature, drug trafficking, if unchecked, is apt to persist over relatively long periods of time.”).  The allegation that Jones modified a semitrailer to form a hidden compartment for the transport of large quantities of narcotics suggests a long-term investment in criminal activity.  Furthermore, newer information tied Jones and the white semitrailer to Jones’s property in Wisconsin.  Police records, in the form of traffic citations, revealed that Jones traveled to Marquette County in the months following the informant’s tip.  A police officer’s observation of tire tracks in snow supported the inference that Jones moved the semitrailer to his property within two weeks of the time police applied for the search warrant.  Accordingly, viewed in context, the warrant-issuing judge was justified in relying on the informant’s information.

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