The Ohio Supreme Court has held that evidence seized from a single trash pull that corroborates tips and background information involving drug activity is sufficient to establish probable cause for a warrant.
The case is State v. Jones, Slip Opinion No. 2015-Ohio-483.
In this case, as part of an ongoing investigation in drug trafficking in Cleveland, police learned from a confidential informant that a woman was engaged in the manufacture and sale of methamphetamine. The Defendant became a suspect. Detectives pulled the trash bin sitting at the curb at her home and brough it back to the Narcotics Unit for investigation. In the garbage, the detectives found mail addressed to the Defendant, as well as empty bottles of chemicals known to be used in the production of methamphetamine. The officers used this information to obtain a search warrant for the residence where they found evidence of an active methamphetamine lab, as well as evidence linking the Defendant to the production of the drug.
In upholding the warrant, the Ohio Supreme Court noted that a search warrant should only be issued upon a proper showing of probable cause, which is determined after examining “the totality of the circumstances.” The court rejected a view that a trash pull must be viewed in isolation. Instead, “the trash pull in this case should have been considered as a part of the totality of the circumstances, along with all of the other information presented in the affidavit accompanying the request for the search warrant.”
The court found that the warrant was sufficient:
Here, the affidavit demonstrated a “fair probability” that contraband or evidence of a crime would be found at [the residence]. The affidavit noted that [the defendant] matched the description of a person . . . identified by a confidential informant as a producer and seller of methamphetamine in the Cleveland area.
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When the facts set forth in the affidavit are considered as a whole, there was a fair probability that contraband or evidence of methamphetamine production would be found at [the residence]. Cleveland police received information linking the address to methamphetamine production and distribution from multiple sources, and that information was corroborated by the trash pull.
This decision is buttressed by the general view that reviewing courts must accord great deference to a determination of probable cause and that doubtful or marginal cases should be resolved in favor of upholding that warrant.