DC: Affidavit’s complete failure to show nexus is a lack of PC and good faith

Without something to go on, the court declines to ascribe a supposed error in an address as a mere typo. Moreover, the affidavit fails to provide any nexus to defendant and the place to be searched, and the good faith exception is inapplicable. The court even finds the issuing judge failed to perform his or her judicial function in evaluating the affidavit. Andrews v. District of Columbia, 2019 D.C. App. LEXIS 336 (Aug. 15, 2019):

First, it is unclear what the officer-affiant “determined” about the address. The affidavit never directly says that Andre Becton resided at the address or was otherwise associated with it. Also, the affidavit provides no specifics regarding the “multiple databases” or the “corroborating information” that led the police to believe that Andre Becton was connected to the stated address. For an issuing judge to independently determine the existence of probable cause, an affidavit must contain sufficient facts to allow an assessment of the nature and reliability of the information on which the police relied to justify their request to search a particular place. See Parsons, 15 A.3d at 279-80. Here, there is no explanation of what the “multiple databases” were, what the “corroborating information” was, who provided it, how or when it originated, or how it was obtained. Without any such explanation, the issuing judge was unable independently to assess whether there was probable cause to search the stated address. The use of the word “sworn” adds nothing to the needed specificity of the warrant application. By finding probable cause based on the affidavit’s conclusory statements, the issuing judge failed to perform a “neutral and detached” role required by the Fourth Amendment. Bynum v. United States, 386 A.2d 684, 686 (D.C. 1978) (quoting Aguilar v. Texas, 378 U.S. 108, 111, 84 S. Ct. 1509, 12 L. Ed. 2d 723 (1964)).

The government argues that, even if the warrant lacked probable cause, exclusion is inappropriate because the officers conducting the search acted in objectively reasonable reliance on the warrant’s validity. It is true that, ordinarily, the police may rely on warrants and cannot be expected to question the issuing judge’s finding of probable cause. Leon, 468 U.S. at 921. But we cannot say that this is an ordinary case. By utterly failing to connect Andre Becton to appellant’s address, the affidavit was “so lacking in indicia of probable cause as to render official belief in its existence entirely unreasonable.” Id. at 923 (citation omitted). Thus, the police could not have acted in objective good faith in relying on the warrant to search the stated address, and the trial court should have suppressed evidence obtained pursuant to the search warrant.

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