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‘Good Faith’ Saves Search for Tools

Deborah Elkins//September 10, 2012

‘Good Faith’ Saves Search for Tools

Deborah Elkins//September 10, 2012//

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A search warrant for power tools, copper and accelerants was not supported by an affidavit that recounted facts such as a convicted felon’s recent delivery to the residence and his purchase of a possible accelerant, but the Salem Circuit Court applies the good faith exception and denies defendant’s motion to suppress.

The  affidavit indicated power tools were stolen from a residence and copper tubing was stolen from a utility trailer that was burned and defendant, a  felon previously convicted of burglary and arson, had delivered building supplies to the residence four days earlier and had purchased four gallons of “offroad diesel fuel” at a nearby convenience store, a substance consistent with the red accelerant found in the residence.

If, on the asserted facts, a reasonable person would find that the stolen goods or evidence of the crime would probably be found in defendant’s residence, probable cause exists for the issuance of a search warrant. If, on the other hand, a reasonable person could not reach that conclusion, then probable cause does not exist for the issuance of a search warrant.

When viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the commonwealth, the court finds as a matter of fact that a reasonable person could not logically conclude that stolen goods or evidence of the crime would probably be found at defendant’s residence. Such a finding would stretch the imagination. Probable cause for the issuance of this search warrant is not found on the facts contained within the four corners of the affidavit for search warrant filed in this case. No evidence was presented to this court concerning any supplemental affidavit or sworn testimony that might have been presented to the magistrate and used by him to find probable cause.

The “good faith” exception to the exclusionary rule is that when police officers conduct a search in good faith relying on a search warrant received from a neutral and detached magistrate, the evidence seized is admissible, even though the magistrate mistakenly determined probable cause existed when it did not.

In this case, the good faith exception applies. The stipulated facts indicate the officers were acting in god faith, reasonably and under the authority of an apparently valid warrant. No evidence to the contrary was presented. The evidence seized as a result of the first search warrant is admissible, even though probable cause did not exist.

The final issue before the court is defendant’s argument that the items seized as a result of the second search warrant should not be admitted into evidence as they violate the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine. Defendant uses an incorrect fact in his reasoning. The original search warrant, although lacking in probable cause, did not result in an unlawful search. The actions of the police in executing the search warrant, in good faith, reasonably and under the authority of an apparently valid search warrant, made the search lawful. Items and statements were validly seized. Because the original search was lawful, the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine did not apply, and the second search warrant was valid.

Motion to suppress denied.

Commonwealth v. Dehart (Doherty) No. CR 12-27, 28; Aug. 22, 2012; Salem Cir.Ct.; Matthew J. Pollard, Ass’t Comm. Att’y; Wayne D. Inge for defendant. VLW 012-8-133, 4 pp.

VLW 012-8-133

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