Monday, December 21, 2015

Officer Lie About Having Search Warrant Required Suppression

US v. Rush: Rush was a guest at the apartment of Wills, who suspected he was selling drugs. She called police and asked them to remove him from her apartment. She met them at her place of employment, signed a consent to search her apartment, and provided officers with the key. Officers went to the apartment, bust in yelling "police!," and rousted Rush out of bed, putting him in handcuffs. When he asked what was going on, one of the officers lied and said they had a warrant to search the apartment. That they did, finding crack cocaine (at Rush's direction). Rush was cooperative, providing information about his supplier. The officers left without arresting Rush, or otherwise ejecting him from the apartment (he later went to the station, talked to the police some more, and was again released). He was eventually charged with possession with the intent to distribute crack and moved to suppress the evidence recovered in the apartment.

The district court found that the lie about the warrant kept Rush from exercising his right to refuse the consent search under Randolph, but declined to suppress the evidence because the lie was motivated by the officer's desire to protect Wills (by not informing Rush that she called the police on him). Rush entered a conditional plea, was sentenced to 12 months and a day in prison, and left on bond pending appeal.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit reversed, concluding that the evidence from the apartment should have been suppressed. The court concluded that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule did not apply because Rush's case "bears no resemblance to the previous applications of the good-faith exception" because "the search was unconstitutional due to the intentional decision" of the officer to lie about having a search warrant. There was "no doubt that a reasonable officer would know that deliberately lying about the existence of a warrant would violate Defendant's Fourth Amendment rights." The officer's decision to lie was "deliberate, contrary to long-standing precedent and objectively unreasonable." The court also rejected the Government's argument that the alleged reason for the lie (protecting Wills) was relevant, given that the analysis was objective, not subjective (and doubted whether it was true, anyway).

Congrats to the Defender office in SDWV on the win!

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