Three major search warrant executions and arrests in such a short period of time suggests that a confidential informant (CI) may be at work.
An overwhelming number of narcotics trafficking cases, especially marijuana grow house cases, are built upon tips provided by confidential informants.
CIs are citizens, not law enforcement, who provide information to the police. Some of them are under contract and get paid for their information. Others are providing tips as a condition of a plea agreement or a deal with police or prosecutors where they will not be prosecuted for their crimes so long as they provide reliable information that leads to arrests.
Detectives can rely upon these tips, normally “corroborated” when the detectives visit the area surrounding the suspected grow house and detect the smell of marijuana in the air.
Using the combination of a CI’s tip and the smell of marijuana surrounding the suspected grow house, detectives are able to obtain search warrants.
For the most part, the identity of a CI will be protected unless a judge deems it constitutionally necessary to disclose the identity. Narcotics detectives understand this and will try to protect the CI from becoming subject to disclosure. This means that the CI will have a role in the detection of the grow house, but they may not be used in such a critical fashion that their disclosure becomes legally necessary.
The role of a CI in a grow house case is usually limited. They may claim that they have seen inside of the home or have previously purchased marijuana at that location.
Being able to get a judge to order the disclosure of a CI can be a critical step in getting a trafficking case dismissed. That’s because police and prosecutors would rather keep their CIs working and providing tips. If a CI’s identity is disclosed they can no longer work for police.
Eric Matheny is a Miami grow house lawyer and Broward grow house lawyer.