N.D.Iowa: It is proper for court to focus on pre-warrant police activities in deciding GFE question

Focusing on the officer’s pre-warrant activities, the court finds that their conduct in entering defendant’s hotel room was unreasonable and in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Thus, the good faith exception should not apply because it’s not reliance on the showing of probable cause. United States v. Zarate, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 127632 (N.D. Iowa July 31, 2019):

Judge Roberts, in conducting his Leon analysis, properly focused on the officers’ prewarrant conduct. (Doc. 76, at 59-60). Judge Roberts found the facts here analogous to those in Conner. In United States v. Conner, 948 F. Supp. 821, 851-54 (N.D. Iowa 1996), this Court found the Leon good faith exception inapplicable when the manner in which the officers entered a hotel room was so clearly illegal that they could not have relied on the validity of the subsequent warrant in good faith. As Judge Roberts noted, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed this Court’s Conner decision. Conner, 127 F.3d at 663.

Although I believe it is a close question, in conducting my own de novo review, I agree with Judge Roberts’ finding that the Leon good faith exception should not apply here. The government does not object to Judge Roberts’ finding that no exigent circumstances justified entry into the hotel room, and I do not view this finding as clearly erroneous. Officer safety could not support the warrantless entry into the hotel room. I understand why officers would be concerned about someone in possession of a sawed-off shotgun who, the CI indicated, was also acting crazy on meth. Nevertheless, under the circumstances, neither the officers nor the public were at that time in immediate danger from defendant or his girlfriend, who was also in the room.

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