Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Omissions from Warrant and Date Error Don't Require Suppression

US v. Gary: Gary was convicted (of what the opinion doesn't say) based at least partly on information developed during a search of a home in Richmond, based on an anonymous tip. The tipster alleged that "Melvin" was selling heroin out of the home. A police officer investigated, rummaging through the trash in the alley behind the home, discovering items with heroin residue, packaging materials, and discarded mail indicating that the trash came from the target address. He applied for a search warrant, in which he failed to disclose that there were multiple trash cans in the alley, only one of which was marked as belonging to the target address, and indicated that the investigation took place a year before it actually did. The district court denied Gary's motion to suppress the evidence.

The Fourth Circuit affirmed, unanimously, in an opinion written by ex-Justice O'Connor. The court rejected Gary's argument that under Franks the information left out of the warrant application required suppression. The court concluded that the information left out of the warrant would not have changed whether probable cause was present. The court also rejected Gary's argument that, notwithstanding the omissions, the warrant application was not sufficient to justify a search because of the discrepancy in dates between the actual investigation and what was written on the application. Noting that the discrepancy wasn't even mentioned until the district court noticed it at the suppression hearing, it was clearly a typo and not destructive to probable cause. Even if it was, the Leon good-faith shield saved the search.

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