S.D.Ill.: Scope and meaning of consent form determined by objective reasonableness

It was objectively reasonable for officers to believe that the consent form defendant signed applied to the apartment searched. There were two buildings on the property, and he was in an apartment with a different mailing address. The consent form said “Apartment/House.” This is analogous to the good faith exception because it was objectively reasonable to search the apartment on that consent. United States v. Way, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 189791 (S.D. Ill. Nov. 16, 2017):

Way’s second argument is more intricate: he asserts that his “permission to search” form was defective. While detained at the police station, he signed a “permission to search” form that states: “I, Scott Way, hereby give my consent to Agents of the Southern Illinois Enforcement Group and other officers they may designate to assist them in the search of my residence, business or other real property.” The officer obtaining the consent, Agent Chris Kelly, checked the box titled “[a]partment/house” and filled in Way’s address as “717 S. University Way” prior to Way signing the form. (Gov.’s Resp. to Def.’s Mot. Ex. E.) Now, Way argues that this search form was defective because his real address is “717 1/2, Apartment A”—and thus the search of his premises violated his Fourth Amendment rights. (Tr. 122:12-124:16.)

The Court does not agree. First, these two “different” properties are on the same lot. (Tr. 125:13-15.) Second, Way signed the consent form that clearly designated that lot—717 S. University—as his “[a]partment/[h]ouse”. Moreover, this scenario is similar to the good faith exception to the warrant requirement: the officers here acted in good faith and objectively and reasonably relied on Way’s signed consent form before searching the premises. See United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 922, 104 S. Ct. 3405, 82 L. Ed. 2d 677 (1984). One of the central purposes of the exclusionary rule is to deter police misconduct. Id. Invoking the rule here when the SIEG agents acted in good faith on a signed consent form regarding property on the same lot would not achieve the purposes of the rule.

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