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A tale of two states on preludes to drug transactions and confidential informants

Feb 01, 2011 A tale of two states on preludes to drug transactions and confidential informants

 

Bill of Rights. (From the public domain.)

If people wanted to shop the jurisdictions where they commit crimes, Maryland is a more hospitable place when it comes to a confidential informant’s providing a visual description of innocent-looking activity, even if the informant says that the activity is a prelude to a drug transaction.

Last month, Maryland’s Court of Appeals reversed a drug conviction resulting from an arrest and search that arose solely from an insufficiently-corroborated tip by a confidential informant that the defendant would be arriving at a shopping center with a large amount of marijuana, where the police did not see any evidence of a possible transaction with the defendant. Elliott v. Maryland, __ Md. __ (Dec. 21, 2010).

In a scenario that does not look materially different — other than the jurisdiction deciding the case — today Virginia’s intermediate appellate court came to an opposite conclusion and affirmed such a conviction. Byrd v. Virginia, ___ Va. App. ___ (Feb. 1, 2011). Hopefully Virginia’s Supreme Court will reverse.

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