Carter v. State

In Carter v. State 910 P.2d 619 (Alaska App. 1996), the police received four anonymous tips over about three and one- half years alleging that the defendant was involved in drug-related activities. The Court found that the informants' tips failed the Aguillar-Spinelli test because they amounted to conclusory allegations devoid of factual substance. Moreover, the police only corroborated "general information that would be readily available to virtually anyone in the community" -- that is, descriptions of the defendant and his daughter, the defendant's phone number, and the location of his residence. The Court found that a defendant's unusually high consumption of electricity had "no inherent incriminatory value" because there were "many common and legitimate uses of electricity that might account for high or unusual electrical consumption." The Court thus held that: "although a proper showing of probable cause need not rule out all possibilities consistent with innocence, neither can it consist of an undifferentiated showing that, among multiple competing possibilities, one is consistent with guilt. Probable cause must at least point the finger of likelihood toward a possibility consistent with guilt." However, The Court noted that evidence that might otherwise appear innocuous can be significant "if other solid facts have been presented to the issuing magistrate to indicate that criminal activity is afoot or to eliminate legitimate explanations for the evidence." In Carter, this circumstance was not present -- the only other evidence consisted of anonymous tips which also did not indicate that any criminal activity was afoot.