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United States v. Tomlin

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

January 27, 2014



KAREN K. CALDWELL, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Darrian Tomlin's motion to suppress evidence seized pursuant to a search warrant (DE 182) and motion to suppress evidence seized incident to arrest (DE 183). For the following reasons, the Court will deny both motions.

I. Motion to Suppress Evidence Seized Pursuant to a Search Warrant

In his first motion, Tomlin moves the Court to suppress evidence seized pursuant to a search warrant. (DE 182). He argues that the affidavit supporting the search warrant did not establish probable cause, and that the officer's reliance on the warrant was not objectively reasonable. Because this motion challenges a finding of probable cause, no hearing is required and the Court considers only the four corners of the underlying affidavit. United States v. Rose, 714 F.3d 362, 366 (6th Cir. 2013).

Where an affidavit is challenged on the basis that there was no probable cause, the court reviews the affidavit to determine whether the issuing judge "had a substantial basis for finding that the affidavit established probable cause to believe that the evidence would be found at the place cited." United States v. Greene, 250 F.3d 471, 478 (6th Cir. 2001) (quoting United States v. Davidson, 936 F.2d 856, 859 (6th Cir. 1999)). Probable cause exists "when there is a fair probability, ' given the totality of the circumstances, that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place." Id. at 479 (quoting Davidson, 936 F.2d at 859). Importantly, a state-court judge's probable-cause determination is entitled to "great deference, " United States v. Coffee, 434 F.3d 887, 892 (6th Cir. 2006), and courts consider the totality of the circumstances when making the decision, rather than engaging in "line-by-line scrutiny" of an affidavit. United States v. Jackson, 470 F.3d 299, 306 (6th Cir. 2006).

In his affidavit, Detective Jared Curtsinger of the Lexington Police Department stated that he "believes that evidence of narcotics use, possession, or trafficking will be found upon the immediate search of the property located at 2089 Old Paris Road, Lexington, Kentucky." (DE 182-3). This belief was based on the following information contained in the affidavit:

• On April 10, 2013, Curtsinger conducted a controlled purchase of oxycodone where the pill supplier was an individual named Sharon Stidham. The following day, on April 11, 2013, Curtsinger confronted Stidham and discovered she possessed approximately twenty-one oxycodone pills at the time. Stidham confessed that she provided the pills in the drug transaction from the previous day and began cooperating with Curtsinger.
• Stidham informed Curtsinger that her oxycodone suppliers were two individuals from Detroit, Michigan going by the name of "Solo" and "T, " and that she believed Solo's last name was "Tomlin." These individuals, according to Stidham, lived in her same building at 2089 Old Paris Road, Lexington, Kentucky.
• Stidham explained that she had been receiving large quantities of oxycodone on a weekly basis since November of 2012. After the transaction on April 10, Stidham took the money she received to 2089 Old Paris Road and gave it to Tomlin. Stidham then described three additional times she had been to the apartment to obtain oxycodone pills from both T and Tomlin within the last week.
• Curtsinger found a photo of Tomlin and showed it to Stidham, who confirmed it was the individual she knew as Solo. Curtsinger then conducted some follow-up investigation and found where Tomlin was from in Michigan, and discovered that Tomlin was convicted of a drug trafficking charge in Fayette County, Kentucky in 2008.

Tomlin contends that the affidavit did not establish probable cause because Stidham was not a known and reliable criminal informant at the time, and Curtsinger did not obtain any additional evidence to corroborate her description of criminal activity. But corroborating evidence is not always necessary to establish probable cause, even when a criminal informant is being used for the first time. "Statements from a source named in a warrant application... are generally sufficient to establish probable cause without further corroboration because the legal consequences of lying to law enforcement officials tend to ensure reliability." United States v. Hodge, 714 F.3d 380, 384-85 (6th Cir. 2013). "[N]amed informants, unlike confidential informants, require little corroboration." United States v. Williams, 544 F.3d 683, 690 (6th Cir. 2008). In this case, Curtsinger relied on a named informant, rather than one who remained anonymous or confidential, which mitigates against the fact that she had no history of providing reliable information.

Furthermore, Curtsinger stated in his affidavit that Stidham informed him she had been in the residence to pick up oxycodone and deliver cash within the last twenty-four hours, and at least two other times within the past week. "When a witness has seen evidence in a specific location in the immediate past, and is willing to be named in the affidavit, the totality of the circumstances' presents a substantial basis' for conducting a search for that evidence." United States v. Pelham, 801 F.2d 875, 878 (6th Cir. 1986). In fact, "there could hardly be more substantial evidence of the existence of the material sought and its relevance to a crime than [the named informant's] direct viewing of" the contraband in the residence that is the target of the search. Id.

Finally, Curtsinger's affidavit does contain additional information to corroborate some of Stidham's statements. After informing Curtsinger that her suppliers were from Detroit and she believed one of them had the last name of "Tomlin, " Curtsinger was able to find a photo of Tomlin matching the description Stidham gave. And although Tomlin was from Detroit, Curtsinger discovered he had been convicted of a drug trafficking charge in Fayette County, Kentucky in 2008. While this additional information might not be the strongest corroboration, the Court views it in conjunction with the fact that Stidham was a named criminal informant who provided first-hand accounts of drug trafficking occurring inside the residence on multiple occasions immediately before completing the affidavit. Taken together, ...

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