United States v. Thomas 4thCIR 8NOV2018

United States v. Thomas 4thCIR 8NOV2018

What happens if there are important facts that are known to a LEO but the LEO fails to supply those facts in a search warrant application?  That is the issue presented in this case.

The defendant in this case was arrested for aggravated sexual battery of a minor.  When he was arrested, LEOs retrieved a cellphone from the defendant. A detective then sought a warrant to search the cellphone.  The affidavit asserted the defendant was involved in specific criminal activity, but failed to specify when that activity occurred (even though these facts were known to the detective). The defendant sought to suppress the incriminating evidence that was found on the cellphone.

The District Court agreed that the warrant affidavit failed to establish probable cause but allowed the evidence under the Leon “Good Faith Exception” to the Exclusionary Rule.  The Fourth Circuit held: “… the district court properly considered facts known to Detective Coleman, but inadvertently omitted from his supporting affidavit, when it applied Leon in this case. Because Coleman “harbored an objectively reasonable belief in the existence of probable cause,” Leon, 468 U.S. at 926, under that standard, the district court correctly denied Thomas’s motion to suppress under Leon.”

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