Thursday, March 23, 2006

Leon Saves Search Pursuant to Questionable No-Knock Warrant

US v. Singleton: In 2001, authorities learned that drugs were being sold from an apartment in which Singleton lived. Police used a CI to make two controlled purchases at the apartment, which they used as the basis for obtaining a warrant to search the apartment. The officers applied for, and received, a no-knock warrant under Maryland law, allowing them to enter without first knocking and announcing their presence.

The no-knock warrant was based on Singleton's criminal history, which included a 1987 conviction for second-degree murder. The warrant was obtained on September 26, 2001. On October 3, the CI attempted to make a third controlled buy to make sure Singleton was still living there. On October 9, police executed the warrant, breaking down the front door.

In the house they found Singleton (and others), along with large amounts of crack cocaine and cash and some firearms. Singleton was charged with multiple drug and firearm counts. He moved to have the evidence seized in the house suppressed on the grounds that there were no exigent circumstances to justify a no-knock entry on October 9. The district court disagreed and Singleton was convicted on all counts after a jury trial.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit affirmed. While doubting that the facts provided to the state magistrate justified the no-knock warrant and subsequent entry, the court held that the "good faith" exception from US v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897 (1984), applied to save the search. Specifically, the court held that the officers had "done all they could do" by getting a no-knock warrant from a magistrate and that penalizing the officers for the magistrates error did not justify suppression. The Court specifically declined to consider whether the delay in execution of a no-knock warrant could lead to the dissipation of the necessity for a no-knock entry.

Singleton's sentence was vacated and remanded in light of Booker and Hughes.

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