N.D.Ga.: NY arrest warrant executed in GA violated NY law but not 4A, and suppression of gun found on arrest would not be granted

There was a New York local court arrest warrant for defendant, and he was arrested on it in Georgia, and then indicted in federal Georgia for being a felon in possession. The government conceded that the arrest violated New York state law, but that’s not important under the Fourth Amendment in federal court in Georgia. United States v. Patterson, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 191860 (N.D. Ga. Jan. 21, 2016), adopted, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 191746 (N.D. Ga. Apr. 1, 2016):

The Government “concedes that defendant is correct that the arrest violated New York state law,” but contends that “the execution of the arrest in Georgia did not violate the Fourth Amendment and the firearm discovered during the execution of the arrest should not be suppressed.” (Doc. 25 at 4-5). Persuasive authority supports the Government’s position.

In Tucker v. County of Jefferson, 110 F. Supp. 2d 117 (N.D. N.Y. 2000), a case cited by the Government, the court was presented with facts similar to those in this case, but found that the arrest did not violate the plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment rights even though it violated New York state law. The court noted, “The warrant at issue here plainly stated on its face that it was directed to ‘any Police Officer of the Yates County Sheriff’s Department’ and that it could only be ‘executed in the County of issuance or adjoining County.'” Id. at 121. Thus, because Jefferson County officers arrested plaintiff in Jefferson County, which did not adjoin Yates County, “under state law, the warrant was improperly executed.” Id. “Notwithstanding this violation of state law,” the court found that “a survey of federal cases reveals that the execution of the warrant by the Jefferson County Defendants did not encroach upon Plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment rights.” Id. In particular, the court cited and relied on United States v. Gilbert, 942 F.2d 1537 (11th Cir. 1991) in making that finding. Tucker, 110 F. Supp. 2d at 121-22.

In Gilbert, federal agents and municipal officers executed a search warrant directed to the county sheriff and deputy sheriffs, in apparent violation of Florida law requiring that search warrants be served by the officers mentioned in the warrant. 942 F.2d at 1540. The court rejected the plaintiff’s contention that evidence seized pursuant to that warrant should be suppressed on the ground that the search violated state law because “constitutional considerations, rather than the demands of state law, direct our resolution of this issue.” Id. at 1541. The court held that “although this search may not have complied with certain conditions required by the state, it did not offend any constitutional principles that support the suppression of evidence.” Id. at 1542. In his concurring opinion, Judge Tjoflat explained that the search at issue was not unreasonable and therefore did not violate the Fourth Amendment because it “was conducted pursuant to a search warrant issued by a ‘neutral and detached magistrate,'” and “was clearly issued on probable cause ….” Id. at 1542-43.

In Tucker, having canvassed relevant authority (including Gilbert) on whether violations of state law constitute violations of federal law, the court concluded that “[t]he mere fact that the arrest was not authorized by state law does not render it unconstitutional.” 110 F. Supp. 2d at 124. Instead the court found that “[b]ecause Plaintiff was arrested on a facially valid warrant”—i.e., “signed by a town justice, provided for execution ‘forthwith,’ identified the person to be arrested, and stated the criminal statutes Plaintiff was alleged to have violated”—”supported by probable cause, he has suffered no violation of his federal constitutional rights notwithstanding any violations of the state criminal procedure law or the state constitution.” Id. at 121, 124.

Similarly in this case, the arrest warrant was signed by a city judge, provided for execution “forthwith,” identified the person to be arrested, and identified the statute Defendant allegedly violated. (Def. Ex. 1). Furthermore, Defendant does not dispute that the arrest warrant was issued by a “neutral and detached magistrate” or that it was issued on probable cause. He relies instead on the same state law violations at issue in Tucker—that the warrant was executed by officers other than those listed on the warrant and outside the counties listed on the warrant—as supporting his claim that the execution of the arrest warrant violated his Fourth Amendment rights. For the same rationale persuasively set forth in Tucker, the undersigned finds that those state law violations do not constitute violations of the Fourth Amendment or require suppression of the evidence seized as a result of the execution of that warrant.

Having determined that the officers’ execution of the arrest warrant did not violate Defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights, the undersigned now considers whether the officers’ discovery and seizure of the firearm from underneath the bathroom sink otherwise violated the Fourth Amendment.

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