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State v. Robinson

Supreme Court of South Carolina

March 30, 2016

The State, Petitioner,
v.
Alex Robinson, Respondent

         Heard October 21, 2015.

          Appeal from Horry County. Edward B. Cottingham, Circuit Court Judge. Appellate Case No. 2014-001545.

         Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson and Assistant Attorney General Mark Reynolds Farthing, both of Columbia, for Petitioner.

         Dayne C. Phillips, of Lexington, and Appellate Defender Laura Ruth Baer, of Columbia, for Respondent.

         CHIEF JUSTICE PLEICONES. BEATTY, KITTREDGE, HEARN, JJ., and Acting Justice Jean H. Toal, concur.

          OPINION

         ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS

         PLEICONES, CHIEF JUSTICE.

         Respondent Robinson was convicted of one count of trafficking in cocaine in an amount between 100 and 200 grams. He was sentenced to twenty-five years imprisonment and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine. The Court of Appeals reversed Robinson's conviction holding that the search-warrant affidavit did not include any information to establish the reliability of the informant. State v. Robinson, 408 S.C. 268, 758 S.E.2d 725 (Ct.App. 2014). We granted the State's petition for a writ of certiorari and now affirm the Court of Appeals' decision as modified.

         FACTS

         An officer of the Horry County Police Department (Officer) sought a search warrant for a residence alleged to be Robinson's home (the Home). The search-warrant affidavit stated, in relevant part, that a confidential informant had purchased illegal drugs from the occupants of the Home on multiple occasions. Based solely on this affidavit, the Circuit Court[1] issued a search warrant for the Home. When the warrant was executed, officers found multiple people living in the Home. In one bedroom they found mail addressed to Robinson, and a bag containing 111 grams of cocaine located on top of a pile of men's clothing. In total, 375.88 grams of cocaine were found in the Home. Robinson was not present when the warrant was executed although a car registered to him was parked outside the Home.

         At trial, Robinson challenged the veracity of the representations in the search-warrant affidavit under Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154, 98 S.Ct. 2674, 57 L.Ed.2d 667 (1978), and sought to suppress the evidence obtained from the search. Robinson claimed that contrary to the assertions in the search-warrant affidavit, the purported confidential informant never personally made any drug purchases from the Home. The Trial Court conducted a Franks hearing where Officer testified that the confidential informant referenced in the affidavit never personally purchased drugs but that Oliver, a third party, made the purchases. The Trial Court found there were no false statements in the affidavit and denied Robinson's motion to suppress.

         On appeal, the Court of Appeals held the Trial Court erred in denying Robinson's motion to suppress because the search-warrant affidavit did not include any information to establish the reliability of the informant. It therefore reversed and remanded for a new trial. See Robinson, 408 S.C. at 278, 758 S.E.2d at 730. We granted the State's petition for a writ of certiorari to review the decision of the Court of Appeals.

         ISSUES

         I. Whether the Court of Appeals erred in finding the search warrant invalid because the search-warrant affidavit contained no ...


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