How can you attack the police’s probable cause or ‘Terry stop’ when there is an informant providing information to the police undercover?
As the informant’s information independently confirmed by the officers at the scene???
State of New Jersey v. Jeffrey Thomas
Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark
On May 14, 2015, Sergeant Ricardo Diaz was assigned to the Trenton Crime Suppression Central Unit. This unit was established to help suppress violent crimes in the most problematic areas in the City of Trenton. Prior to 8:00 p.m., the unit received a call from a confidential source who stated “a black male in the area of New Willow Street and Beakes Street in Trenton was in possession of a handgun.”Detective Diaz did not communicate directly with the informant only his partner, Detective Blair Astbury was involved in those communications.
Astbury relayed the message back to Diaz telling Diaz the informant had provided information resulting in six or more arrests prior to this call. The informant had told Atsbury the guy was “an older black male approximately fifty years old, approximately six feet tall with gray hair, wearing a red collared shirt, black shorts, white sneakers, and had an Ace tan bandage wrapped around his right wrist and arm. The informant was with an older black female wearing a black shirt and blue jeans.” Detective Diaz and seven other unit members put protective clothing on and headed to the corner of New Willow Street and Beakes Street. The police parked on the curb of a high crime area and waited to see a man that fit the description provided by the informant. Diaz observed a man who matched the criteria walking down the street. The officers approached the defendant and Detective Diaz started to speak with the man. Diaz began what he considered as a field inquiry. Defendant appeared to be intoxicated or under the influence of some type of controlled dangerous substance. During the conversation, defendant began to ‘blade’ the right side of his body which means turning your body to hide part of yourself. Defendant did this twice and on the second time he went to reach in to his pocket. The officer stopped him and frisked him for weapons. Diaz felt the barrel of a weapon in defendant’s right pants pocket. The reason the Detective frisked defendant was he feared for his life when defendant continued to ‘blade’. After placing defendant under arrest, Diaz found two bags of heroin and a glass smoking pipe in defendant’s left pocket. The court determined the police had reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigative detention. This confidential source had previously provided reliable information which had led to arrests. The officers could not let a credible tip about a weapon go uninvestigated
On appeal, defendant argues that the stop was an investigatory stop unsupported by a reasonable and articulable suspicion. Defendant contends the State failed to establish the reliability of the informant’s tip because Diaz had no personal knowledge of the informant’s previous involvement with police.
In this case, Diaz’s reasonable suspicion was based upon information provided by a reliable informant. The informant gave a detailed description of defendant telling where he would be, who he would be with, and never actually mentioned his name. Diaz was justified in performing a Terry stop and frisk because of the informant’s proven record of reliability, the accuracy of the description of defendant, the character of the neighborhood known to police, and the detective’s experience. The pat down was to protect Diaz and the other officers at the scene. The Appellate Court affirms the trial court’s decision.