Laud v. People, GR 199032, 19 November 2014
Whether or not the requirements of probable cause and particular description were complied with and the one-specific-offense rule under Section 4, Rule 126 of the Rules of Court was violated.
No. The SC held that in this case, the existence of probable cause for the issuance of Search Warrant No. 09-14407 is evident from the first-hand account of Avasola who, in his deposition, stated that he personally witnessed the commission of the afore-stated crime and was, in fact, part of the group that buried the victims.
Probable cause for a search warrant is defined as such facts and circumstances which would lead a reasonably discrete and prudent man to believe that an offense has been committed and that the objects sought in connection with the offense are in the place sought to be searched. A finding of probable cause needs only to rest on evidence showing that, more likely than not, a crime has been committed and that it was committed by the accused. Probable cause demands more than bare suspicion; it requires less than evidence which would justify conviction. The existence depends to a large degree upon the finding or opinion of the judge conducting the examination. However, the findings of the judge should not disregard the facts before him nor run counter to the clear dictates of reason.
The Court finds that the quantum of proof to establish the existence of probable cause had been met. That a “considerable length of time” attended the search warrant’s application from the crime’s commission does not, by and of itself, negate the veracity of the applicant’s claims or the testimony of the witness presented. As the CA correctly observed, the delay may be accounted for by a witness’s fear of reprisal and natural reluctance to get involved in a criminal case. Ultimately, in determining the existence of probable cause, the facts and circumstances must be personally examined by the judge in their totality, together with a judicious recognition of the variable complications and sensibilities attending a criminal case. To the Court’s mind, the supposed delay in the search warrant’s application does not dilute the probable cause finding made herein. In fine, the probable cause requirement has been sufficiently met.
The Court similarly concludes that there was compliance with the constitutional requirement that there be a particular description of “the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.”
“[A] description of a place to be searched is sufficient if the officer with the warrant can, with reasonable effort, ascertain and identify the place intended and distinguish it from other places in the community. Any designation or description known to the locality that points out the place to the exclusion of all others, and on inquiry leads the officers unerringly to it, satisfies the constitutional requirement.