The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in a Utah search and seizure case that could shape the law concerning when police can enter a home while using an undercover informant.
The high court is expected to hear the case on Oct. 14 in Washington, D.C. On Tuesday, attorneys representing members of the Central Utah Narcotics Task Force announced they had filed their merits brief with the Supreme Court.
The case involves a Utah man who claims drug agents sent a confidential informant into his home for a drug buy and then entered his home to search it without a warrant.
According to court documents, task force members were contacted in March 2002 by an informant who said he had set up a drug buy with Afton Callahan in his trailer home. Agents met up with the informant to put a wire on him so they could listen in on the deal. Although the informant appeared to have been drinking and on methamphetamine, agents "plied him" with coffee and sent him in, documents said.
After the deal was done, the informant gave agents the verbal signal to move in. Agents rushed into the home and arrested the informant and two men. Drugs were found on the informant but not on the other two men. Baggies of what appeared to be methamphetamine were found on the floor of the trailer's enclosed porch. After the arrests, Callahan consented to have his home searched.
Later, Callahan moved to have the evidence of the search suppressed. The district court ruled the agents were protected under governmental immunity, but the Utah Court of Appeals overturned the ruling, saying agents should have obtained a warrant.
In federal court, a federal judge in Utah threw out the suit, again citing governmental immunity; however, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver overturned that decision last year and found the officers should have obtained a warrant.A ruling in the case could clear up the law regarding informants who witness illegal activity and then call police in to a home, which attorneys say has not been clearly established.