« Maryland High Court on "Snitches Get Stitches" on MySpace | Main | MIT Professor Gary Marx reviews "Snitching" »

May 11, 2011

Posted by Alexandra Natapoff at 11:25 AM

9th Circuit upholds use of jailhouse snitch in sting operation

Jailhouse informant Robert Plunkett reported to police that he had learned that attorney John Garcia was willing to deliver drugs into the Merced County jail. The police set up a sting, and Garcia accepted a bag containing methamphetamines from Plunkett for delivery to his (Garcia's) incarcerated client. As a result of this transaction, Garcia's law office was searched and he was arrested, although not prosecuted. He then sued the police for violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, in effect arguing that based on Plunkett's information they didn't have enough evidence to arrest him or get a warrant. Story here. In Garcia v. County of Merced, the 9th Circuit denied Garcia's claim, reaffirming the principle that information from informants, if properly corroborated and checked, can constitute probable cause for arrest or for a warrant. In this case, "there were at least seven to eight items of corroboration that confirm what [Plunkett reported]."

The opinion is additionally interesting because it was authored by Judge Stephen Trott, who has been an outspoken critic of the use of criminal informants and lectures prosecutors around the country on the perils of informant use. See Judge Stephen Trott, Outline of lecture to prosecutors on the use of informants. The opinion notes that jailhouse snitches are unreliable, that "the word of a jailhouse informant [] is suspect and ordinarily requires corroboration before it can be accepted as probable cause," and that "jaihouse informants can always be presumed to be looking for consideration in return for the information." In this case, however, the Court found that the police disclosed enough information to the judge who issued the warrant to put the judge on notice of Plunkett's "suspect and shaky character." That disclosure, in combination with the substantial corroboration, was enough for the warrant.

Snitching by Alexandra Natapoff A Barnes & Noble Best Pick of 2009

2010 ABA Silver Gavel Award Honorable Mention for Books
2010 ABA Silver Gavel Award
Honorable Mention for Books

Related Links

Other Law Blogs and Websites of Interest

Legal Disclaimer

  • Content on this site is for informational purposes only. Snitching Blog does not give legal advice; nothing on this site should be construed as legal advice. Snitching Blog does not warrant the accuracy or currency of any information on this site.
  • Guest bloggers are invited in order to enhance the diversity of information and opinion available on this blog. Their opinions are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Snitching Blog. Snitching Blog does not endorse any company, private service, or product.