CA9: SW was ambiguous as to the mobile home to be searched; no PC shown as to one searched; suppressed

The search warrant authorized search of a gray mobile home. There were two on the property, and the one searched was white. The search warrant was thus ambiguous when the officers arrived, and the court finds the search unjustified because there was no showing of probable cause as to the place actually searched. The court also finds the good faith exception does not apply. United States v. Alcazar-Barajas, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 12187 (9th Cir. Apr. 24, 2019):

The government first argues that it is “clear” the mobile home described in the warrant was the mobile home in which Alcazar-Barajas was found.

It is far from clear. The warrant authorized the search of a “gray mobile home type structure,” among other buildings on the property. But the mobile home where Alcazar-Barajas was found was white. And, perhaps more significantly, there were in fact two mobile homes on the property in (relative) close proximity to one another. Nothing in the warrant or the warrant affidavit provides any reasonable method of discerning which of the two mobile homes was the one the magistrate authorized to be searched.

The warrant was thus ambiguous, at best. To the extent officers know “or even if they should have known” of ambiguity in the warrant and the risk of searching a residence outside the warrant’s scope, officers are “required to discontinue the search” as soon as they are “put on notice” of that risk. Maryland v. Garrison, 480 U.S. 79, 85-87 (1987). Here, the government was aware, in advance of the search, that there were two mobile homes on the property. In fact, the government’s own “operational plan” for executing the warrant describes the two mobile homes indistinguishably as “two gray/white mobile home type structures.”

The district court concluded that, based on the “totality of all [the] circumstances,” the officers involved in executing the search “should have known” that Alcazar-Barajas’ mobile home was a “different living situation” requiring officers to “secur[e] a new warrant.” There is nothing clearly erroneous about that determination. See Ruckes, 586 F.3d at 716.

The search of Alcazar-Barajas’ mobile home was therefore not authorized by the warrant and presumptively unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment. See Whitney, 633 F.2d at 907.

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