The Utah Court of Appeals has reversed the conviction of a woman on charges of drug possession, ruling that all the evidence obtained at her arrest must be suppressed because police searched her truck illegally.
In a decision released Tuesday, a three-judge panel said Garfield County Sheriff Robert Judd should have presented a more detailed, convincing case when he asked for a search warrant on April 18, 1987.Judd had received a tip from a confidential source that methamphetamine was to be delivered to a home in Panguitch by way of a car traveling from California.
Based on this information, a justice court judge gave Judd a warrant to search the car. Judd and a deputy waited near the house and saw a compact pickup with California license plates drive up. They searched the pickup, found drug paraphernalia, marijuana and traces of methamphetamine and arrested the driver, Jeannette Marie Droneburg.
A jury later convicted Droneburg of felony possession of methamphetamine and misdemeanor possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
But the appeals court decision, written by Judge Russell W. Bench, said officers violated Droneburg's constitutional rights against illegal search and seizure. The justice court judge should have demanded more information from Judd before issuing the warrant.
"Neither the credibility of the informant nor the reliability of the information was ever established," Bench wrote. "The record reveals nothing to indicate how, when or where the information was obtained. Sheriff Judd stated that he had used the informant previously and found `them' to be reliable, but there is no indication as to how many times this occurred, when it last occurred, the circumstances or even whether it was one or more informants."
Bench said the constitutional guarantees against illegal search and seizure are more important than the small amount of evidence that was confiscated. The decision was signed also by judges Judith M. Billings and Gregory K. Orme.