Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Defendant Entitled to Franks Hearing Due to Omitted Facts

US v. Tate: Tate was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. The gun came to light during a search of Tate's home based on a warrant obtained by a Baltimore police officer. As basis for obtaining the warrant, the officer told the state judge that he had searched through two of Tate's trash bags that were "easily accessible from the rear yard of" Tate's home and discovered marijuana residue. Prior to trial, Tate sought a Franks hearing, arguing that the officer omitted a material fact from the warrant application - that the trash bags were only "easily accessible" because the officer hopped fence (with a locked gate) and took the bags off the home's back porch. The bags had not been placed in the nearby alley, as they would be on trash pick up day. The district court denied Tate's request for a Franks hearing, holding that the officer's application was "literally true."

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit reversed and held that Tate was entitled to a Franks hearing. The court held that Tate "clearly described the nature of [the officer's] omissions; he gave reasons for why he considered the omissions deliberately deceptive and material; and he proffered evidence in support of his position . . .." The court noted that the Government's argument, which "essentially parrot[ed]" the district court's, that the statement in the application was literally true fails to deal with the nature of the omitted facts. Finally, the court held that if Tate's factual assertions are true the officer illegally searched Tate's garbage and therefore lacked probable cause to obtain the warrant.

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