Speaking of informants, on the Texas prosecutors' user forum a self-identified DEA agent named Bill sought to justify a traffic stop where drugs were found using probable cause agents had overtly fabricated. They didn't want to admit in court they were acting an a possibly unreliable informant, so took the liberty of manufacturing probable cause for a traffic stop by stealing the front license plate from the car the suspect was driving. Here's his story:
I have a federal prosecutor who has some questions with this. Maybe some DA's can shed some light. The federal AUSA [Assistant US Attorney] just has some legal concerns, he is trying to do the right thing and is working with us. In any event, here it is:Keep in mind, according to this passage, not just the DEA but an unnamed narcotics task force and also local police "discuss[ed] this gameplan and everyone agree[d] it will be fine." In other words, this kind of skullduggery, to those officers and their agencies, anyway, is just business as usual.
An informant gets called to run a load of dope. Fine. He provides the load vehicle, which is driven away to the stash house by a criminal load driver. Prior to the load driver picking up the car, law enforcement removes the front plate, on purpose, so that marked patrol units, working with narcotics task force, will have PC to stop the car. Narcotics task force supervisors and police patrol supervisors discuss this gameplan and everyone agrees it will be fine.
Load gets loaded. Vehicle gets stopped, upon observation by Texas peace officers who witness first hand that the vehicle is in violation of traffic law, with no front plate. Drugs are in plain view thru the glass, and driver consents to search. Drugs seized. Driver arrested. Case expanded on. Everyone high-fives each other.
AUSA feels that the fact that law enforcement "created" the PC, that some issues may come up down the road, such as at discovery. AUSA is also concerned that he may have to "reveal" that this PC was pre-orchestrated to the defense and that an informant was really involved.
We explain the concept of "wall-off" and how PC did legally exist to make the stop, created by us or not.
(As an aside, UC agents use deception and dupery all the time to buy dope. Is the PC for those arrests "bad" because of such tactics?....etc etc)
Can someone share their insight and quote some case law so that I may talk my AUSA? Any "interdiction" experts or similar is helpful also.quote:The code states "does not display" it does not say "if removed by law enforcement, this section is not in force" etc etc language
502.404. OPERATION OF VEHICLE WITHOUT LICENSE PLATE OR REGISTRATION INSIGNIA. (a) A person commits an offense if the person operates on a public highway during a registration period a passenger car or commercial motor vehicle that does not display two license plates, at the front and rear of the vehicle, that have been:.......
Again, the AUSA is a good guy but might benefit from some additional info from the field on this.
By the way, we could be 100% wrong on this too...
any info is appreciated however
To their credit, several prosecutors said it did not pass the smell test. One ADA declared "The ONLY reason why they stopped the vehicle was because it was TAMPERED with by law enforcement officers! All that dope is fruit of the poisonous tree and you will be lucky if the prep doesn't turn around and sue you guys for violating his civil rights!!"
But I was astonished to see others suggest the scenario was okay, including an ADA from LaGrange who declared:
I don't see a problem with taking the plate off. Law enforcement will often hand the defendant the drugs and then arrest him for possession. The question is did the defendant operate the vehicle without the front license plate.Damn! Just take off the license plate off then pull him over for not having it? Or more astonishing, hand them dope and then arrest them for possession? No, no entrapment there, huh? A regular commenter, Jimbeaux, suggested, "Why don't you just cut the brake lines and arrest him when he goes through a stop sign?" No kidding!
Here's my question: Why isn't the officer charged with theft of the license plate? No one suggested such a thing on the prosecutors string, but you have to wonder. And why would it be worth police engaging in all this mendacity to keep their informant from being scrutinized in court? Maybe because the informant is more culpable than his handlers are letting on. My guess: there's a lot more backstory to this informant's involvement than meets the eye.
MORE: See an excellent followup post on this subject from the blog Simple Justice, and more discussion from the blog Defending People. Also see the discussion string at Fark.com.
RELATED: See recent Grits coverage of a Congressional subcommittee hearing on problems with confidential informants: