July 22, 2019

Colorado Supreme Court: Trial Court Erred by Reviewing Magistrate’s Probable Cause Determination De Novo Instead of Affording Great Deference

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Cox on Monday, November 5, 2018.

Searches and Seizures—Judicial Review or Determination—Scope of Inquiry or Review, in General.

In this interlocutory appeal, the supreme court considered whether the trial court erred in ruling that the affidavit in support of a search warrant failed to establish probable cause. The search warrant was obtained after law enforcement officers observed what they believed was a large marijuana grow on defendant’s agricultural and residential property. The trial court found that the affidavit was deficient because it failed to mention that defendant was a registered industrial hemp farmer and that marijuana and industrial hemp appear and smell the same.

The supreme court concluded that the trial court erred by (1) reviewing the magistrate’s probable cause determination de novo instead of according it great deference, (2) considering information not contained within the four corners of the affidavit, and (3) failing to afford the affidavit a presumption of validity. When giving the information articulated within the four corners of the affidavit the presumption of validity to which it is entitled, the court determined that the magistrate had a substantial basis to find that probable cause existed to believe that contraband or evidence of criminal activity would be found on defendant’s property. Therefore, the trial court’s suppression order was reversed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

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