Monday, January 24, 2011

Court Affirms Multiple Searches In Wake of Shooting

US v. Allen: Allen was shot and wounded (in a shooting that left another wounded and two more dead) in front of his store in Baltimore. An officer responding to the scene followed a trail of blood into the store, to a file cabinet, which he opened. Inside was a pistol. Three search warrants were then executed: the first at the store (recovering the pistol and collecting DNA), the second to procure Allen's DNA, and the third at Allen's home. The searches showed that Allen's DNA was on the pistol found at the store and that ammunition had been recovered at Allen's home. Allen was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.

Allen moved to suppress the evidence found as a result of all three searches and also requested a Franks hearing based on discrepancies between the affidavits for the first and second warrants. The district court denied the motions. As to the first and second warrants, the district court found that , although the pistol was not in plain view when first seen, it would have inevitably been discovered during a proper search of the crime scene. As to the third warrant, the court concluded that the warrant contained sufficient evidence to demonstrate probable cause that evidence related to the shooting would be found at Allen's home. Allen pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of ammunition and preserved his right to appeal the denial of his motions to suppress.

On appeal, Allen made three arguments, all of which the Fourth Circuit rejected. First, he argued that he should have been granted a Franks hearing due to the discrepancies between the first two warrant applications, mostly based on whether the pistol was in plain view (first) or not (second). The court concluded that, even without that information, both warrants were based on sufficient evidence to provide probable cause. Second, Allen argued that the first officer to enter the store did so outside any legitimate Fourth Amendment exception. The court concluded that, even if that entry was improper, there was sufficient evidence aside from what was initially discovered in the store to support probable cause. Finally, renewed his argument that the third warrant lacked probable cause to support a search of his home. The court disagreed.

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