Good Faith Exception Search Warrants: HENSLEY V. COM. (COA 10/12/2007)

HENSLEY V. COM.
CRIMINAL: SEARCH WARRANTS; GOOD FAITH EXCEPTION EXCUSIONARY RULE

2005-CA-002501
PUBLISHED: REVERSING & REMANDING
PANEL: NICKELL PRESIDING; COMBS, WINE CONCUR
COUNTY: KNOX
DATE RENDERED: 10/12/2007

CA reversed TC’s determination that affidavit supporting search warrant provided probable cause to issue search warrant.  Further, TC erred in applying the “good faith exception” to the exclusionary rule in denying the motion to suppress the seized evidence.  Defendant’s conviction for manufacturing methamphetamine vacated.

When requested to issue search warrants, judges may not simply act as rubber stamps for the police and merely ratify the bare conclusions of others, nor may they consider information outside the affidavit.  The United States Supreme Court has held that an officer’s reasonable reliance on a search warrant issued by a neutral and detached magistrate could save evidence from being excluded when the warrant was later determined to be deficient for lack of probable cause. However, the Court went on to add that if the magistrate had been misled with false information, any evidence seized should be suppressed as the officer’s reliance on the search warrant could not be seen as reasonable. Further, if the magistrate abandons the “detached and neutral” judicial role or if the officer’s belief in the existence of probable cause was wholly unreasonable, suppression of evidence remains available as a remedy.  Here, it is clear the magistrate was misled by false information provided by the officer, and the officer’s later reliance on the resultant search warrant was wholly unreasonable.  While nothing in the record specifically indicates Officer Hodge intentionally attempted to fraudulently obtain the instant search warrant, his failure to include with specificity any reasonable indication of probable cause in the affidavit went beyond mere negligence. The falsity of some of the information provided makes the officer’s actions even more egregious, especially in light of his testimony at the suppression hearing that he was aware of the untruthfulness of his statements when they were made. The affidavit submitted by Officer Hodge included only a general statement alleging knowledge of the possibility of illegal conduct. The affidavit is silent as to any other indicia of probable cause to believe contraband or other evidence of illicit activity would be uncovered at the residence.

Digested by Scott C. Byrd
Olgin and Byrd

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