Confidential Informants and Search Warrants in Ohio

In many drug cases in Columbus, Ohio, and throughout Franklin County, law enforcement officers use a confidential informant, also known as a CI. The confidential informant is often facing his or her own criminal charges. Law enforcement officers will negotiate with the confidential information, sometimes through the informant’s criminal defense attorney, for cooperation in setting up another person.

In exchange, law enforcement officers will promise not to arrest or prosecute the confidential informant for his or her own criminal charges. In some cases, the confidential informant is actually paid cash or other benefits for the cooperation.

The confidential informant then acts as a witness, and will approach the defendant for the purpose of getting the defendant to engage in illegal conduct such as a drug transaction to sell marijuana or another controlled substance. Because the confidential informant is acting at the request of law enforcement, the confidential informant receives immunity for his or her participation in these crimes.

In many of these cases, entrapment is an important defense that can be used to show that “but for” the actions of the confidential informant or undercover officer, the crime would not have occurred and the defendant was not predisposed to commit the crime.

Search Warrants in Drug Cases in Columbus, Ohio

After using a confidential informant to manufacture a crime involving the defendant, law enforcement officers will then use the information provided by the confidential informant as the basis to obtain a search warrant. Under Crim. R. 41, for any search warrant to issue, it must be supported by a sworn affidavit or affidavits establishing the grounds for the warrant.

The affidavit in support of the search warrant must also name or describe the person to be searched or particularly describe the place to be searched for and seized, the place to be searched, and the person to be searched, as well as the factual basis for the allegation of a crime.

When law enforcement uses information from the confidential informant to obtain the basis for the search warrant, the officers will often ask the court to leave the contents of the warrant “under seal.”

Sealing the contents of the warrant means that information in the search warrant is not available for public view. That information might include the affidavit, search warrant, inventory, and the return on search warrant listing the warrant number.

In those cases, the warrant is served, but the affidavit supporting the warrant, inventory, and return of the search warrant often remain sealed. In this way, the law enforcement officers can keep the identity of the confidential informant secret, even from the criminal defense attorney representing the defense for the pending charges.

Motions to Unseal the Search Warrant

Under Article I, § 10 of the Ohio Constitution and under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, an attorney has an obligation to render effective assistance of counsel to the defendant.

Effective assistance of counsel in these types of cases requires investigating all information that would be helpful or beneficial to the defendant in preparing a defense to the criminal charges.

Talking to the confidential informant may help the defense determine what other criminal acts may have occurred at the same location. Also, talking to the confidential informant is critical to determining whether entrapment occurred.

While it may be necessary to keep a warrant sealed for a limited period of time in some cases, it is difficult to imagine any reason for keeping a warrant sealed for more than a short time span. If the warrant is not unsealed quickly, then the criminal defense attorney may file a Motion to Unseal the Search Warrant.

The motion will request that the Court issue an order directing the Clerk of Court for Franklin County and the State of Ohio to unseal and make public the affidavit, search warrant, inventory, and the return on search warrant.

A qualified criminal defense attorney in Columbus, OH, can also file a motion to compel disclosure of the confidential informant’s identity.

Finding a Drug Crimes Attorney in Columbus, Ohio

If you are facing serious felony drug charges in Columbus, Ohio, involving an undercover sting operation using a confidential informant or undercover officers, then contact an experienced drug crime attorney at Joslyn Law Firm.

We can help you understand the charges against you, the best way to assert the entrapment defense as mitigation, as a matter of law, or as an affirmative defense at trial.

Call today to find out what our drug crime attorneys in Columbus, Ohio can do to help you fight the charges.