Warrants to Search a Residence for Drug-Related Activity

Are you dealing with a search warrant? The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by requiring warrants based on probable cause. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently clarified the requirements for probable cause that police must meet to obtain a warrant to search a residence for evidence of illegal drug activity.

Previously the Court stated that when the place to be searched is a residence, “there must be specific information in the affidavit, and reasonable inferences a magistrate may draw, to provide ‘a sufficient nexus between the defendant’s drug-selling activity and his residence to establish probable cause.’” Commonwealth v. Pina, 453 Mass. 438, 440-41 (2012). The Court stated that a single observation of a suspect leaving a residence is insufficient to establish a nexus to that location, but that additional information might provide a sufficient nexus to establish probable cause for a search.

In 2012, the Court clarified the “nexus” requirement in two cases: Commonwealth v. Escalera, 462 Mass. 636 (2012), and Commonwealth v. Tapia, 463 Mass. 721 (2012). In both of these cases, the Court found that a “sufficient nexus” between a suspect’s drug-selling activities and the residence existed, based on additional police observations of suspect’s activities. In each case, police arranged for an informant to set up multiple drug purchases. The police then repeatedly observed the suspect leaving or returning to the residence that was subsequently searched. The police observations also confirmed information provided by confidential informants.

In Escalera the Court cautioned that in determining the validity of search warrants, “each case presents its own facts.” If you are dealing with a search warrant, get help to protect your rights. Contact the attorneys at Hutchins Law, P.C. for a careful review based on the facts of your scenario.

The purpose of this article is to inform our clients of developments in the law and to provide information of general interest. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or to assume a client relationship. The content of this article could be considered advertising under the rules of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Copyright © 2012 Hutchins Law, P.C. All Rights Reserved.