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.

New Law Bans Bath Salts in Ohio

Taking a bath just got a little less fun.

In July of this year, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed House Bill 64, which made it a crime to sell or be in possession of bath salts and the new law recently took effect in October. Bath salts are considered a synthetic recreational drug.  The drugs were mostly being sold in tobacco shops and convenience stores.

Photo Courtesy of The Cleaveland Leader

The bath salts are crystallized chemicals that are typically snorted or injected to give a cocaine-like high. The salts are said to contain derivatives of Cathinone, a naturally occurring amphetamine that can be found in the shrub Catha edulis. The substances are said to cause reactions including hallucinations, paranoia, severe agitation and seizures. The baths salts have also been linked to deaths in Ohio and other states. Additionally, the American Association of Poison Control Centers have reported that the number of calls related to baths salts has risen from 303 in 2010 to more than 4,700 in the first seven months of this year.

The new law makes bath salts a Schedule I drug in Ohio and the possession of it can lead to the same penalties as possession of marijuana. A Schedule I drug is considered as having a high potential for abuse and no known medical use in the United States. Possession of bath salts can result in a minor misdemeanor or a felony for trafficking the salts in the vicinity of a school or juvenile. Possession and trafficking of bath salts falls under the normal felony penalties for a Schedule I controlled substance.

The first arrest in Ohio from the possession of bath salts just recently occurred in northeast Ohio when a woman was pulled over for a traffic stop and 200 grams of the salts were found in her vehicle. As a result of her arrest the woman could be facing felony possession charge because of the amount of bath salts that were found in her possession. The felony possession charge can result in prison time, a felony criminal record, and expensive fines.

If you find yourself facing a charge for possession of bath salts in Ohio, an experienced criminal defense attorney in Columbus can help you in your defense against such a serious offense. Because this ban on bath salts is fairly recent, not all individuals or retailers may know that they are facing stiff repercussions in they are found in possession of the substance.

Although you cannot use ignorance of the law as a defense, a good criminal defense attorney will help you find mitigating factors such as improper reading of your Miranda Rights, improper handling of evidence or illegal search and seizure that could potentially reduce your charges or have them dismissed.

A Close Look at Drug Trafficking in Ohio

In 2007, one of the most successful drug raids occurred in Mexico City, Mexico with the cooperation of The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Mexican Police. During the raid over $200 million in U.S. currency was seized along with a pill making machine, luxury vehicles and various weapons, which included guns and semiautomatic firearms.

Officials believed that the money was connected to one of the largest networks for trafficking pseudoephedrine, which is the main ingredient in methamphetamines. Mexican drug trafficking organizations that function on both sides of the border between Mexico and the U.S. are said to be the source of at least 80% of the meth that is consumed in the United States.

Photo Courtesy of Drug Enforcement Agency
Photo Courtesy of Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)

While large scale drug raids like the one mentioned above are unprecedented in Ohio, drug trafficking is still a serious felony offense in Ohio that can result in a prison sentence and expensive fines. Under Ohio Rev. Code § 2925.03, a drug trafficking offense that involves methamphetamine is considered aggravated drug trafficking, which is a felony of the fourth degree in Ohio.

Methamphetamines are classified as a schedule II drug under Ohio’s Drug Schedule. A Schedule II drug is considered as having a high potential for abuse and minimal to no medical use in the United States. A felony of the fourth degree is punishable by a prison sentence of 6 to 18 months and/or a fine up to $5,000.

However, there is hope if you are convicted of a felony of the fourth degree for a drug trafficking offense in Ohio. The state of Ohio has a drug court program for offenders who have been convicted of 4th or 5th degree felony drug offenses. This program can be an alternative to jail time if an individual is approved to participate in the program and upon successful completion, could potentially result in a dismissal or reduction of the charges against you. The program focuses on support in the form of treatment programs and options other than jail or prison time.

If you find yourself facing a charge for drug trafficking in Ohio, an experienced criminal defense attorney in Columbus can help you in your defense against such a serious offense. A good criminal defense lawyer will examine your case closely and come up with the best defense possible to increase your chances of a favorable outcome regarding your particular circumstances.

Some defenses to your case could include, improper reading of your Miranda Rights, improper handling of evidence or illegal search and seizure. A knowledgeable defense attorney will also be with you through all stages of the criminal process such as your first court appearance, any subsequent court appearances, sentencing, and appeals.