Monday, April 12, 2010

Rule 41 Does Not Apply to State Officer On State/Federal Task Force

US v. Claridy: Claridy pleaded guilty to drug and gun charges based on evidence seized from his home pursuant to a search warrant. In the district court, he sought to suppress that evidence (and a subsequent statement) because a "federally deputized Baltimore City police officer" who was part of a joint task force obtained the warrant from a state judge without first trying to obtain one from a federal magistrate judge, in violation of Rule 41(b) of the Rules of Criminal Procedure. The district court denied the motion, holding that even if Rule 41(b) was implicated in this situation it was not intentionally violated so as to require suppression of the evidence.

Claridy raised the same issue on appeal, which the Fourth Circuit rejected. The court began by noting that it had never clarified the application of Rule 41 to joint state/federal investigations, as opposed to purely federal ones. The trigger for Rule 41 to control is not whether the "investigation" is a federal one, but rather whether the "proceeding" was federal, as the rule applies only to "proceedings." A proceeding does not become federal, however, simply because federal officers are involved in the investigation. Nothing in the text of the Rule, moreover, suggests that joint state/federal task forces are limited to utilizing only federal resources. In this case, the application for a search warrant by a state police officer from a state judge alleging violations of state law was not a federal "proceeding" to which Rule 41 applied. Alternately, even if the Rule applied and was violated, suppression would not be appropriate, as the violation was "nonconstitutional and nonprejudicial."

Chief Judge Traxler concurred, emphasizing the fact that the facts upon which the warrant was based came from state officers.

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