FL4: Mistakenly placed GPS on probationer isn’t suppressed under Heien and Herring

When defendant started probation, a GPS monitor was placed on him without court order by a probation employee that just assumed it was required. It wasn’t. It was an apparent violation of the Fourth Amendment, but it’s within the Heien rule that a reasonable mistake of fact can be overlooked. At worst this was negligence under Herring. Also, the police agency that ended up using the GPS information wasn’t the one that placed it. Therefore, all this counsels against suppression. Maldonado v. State, 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 12890 (4th DCA Aug. 22, 2019):

This case involved a clerical error by a Department of Corrections employee who performed an administrative role, an error that went undetected until after Maldonado’s arrest. The circuit court correctly concluded that suppression of the GPS evidence was not warranted because the detective’s actions “were clearly not reckless or grossly negligent,” and “[t]here is no deterrent benefit to be obtained from suppression.” The record also supports the court’s finding that the Department of Corrections’ employee’s actions were “not deliberate or reckless conduct,” nor is exclusion “worth the price paid by the justice system.” See Herring, 555 U.S. at 144. “[I]n order for a court to suppress evidence following the finding of a Fourth Amendment violation, ‘the benefits of deterrence must outweigh the costs.'” United States v. Master, 614 F.3d 236, 243 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Herring, 555 U.S. at 141).

Although Maldonado persuasively argues the statute requiring a court order is “very clear and not hard to understand,” the testimony in the circuit court established the Department of Corrections employee believed the victim of the sexual offense was a child, which would have required the GPS monitor. No deterrence would be accomplished by exclusion. So the benefit of deterrence does not “outweigh the costs.” See Herring, 555 U.S. at 141.

Further, the GPS evidence was ultimately used by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, an agency that did not know about the Department of Corrections’ clerical error when it received the evidence. The testimony revealed the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office was not involved with placing the monitor on Maldonado and did not know until after his arrest that he was not supposed to be on a monitor. This provides additional support for the court’s denial of the motion to suppress. See, e.g., United States v. Silva, 473 F. App’x 569, 570 (9th Cir. 2012) (holding evidence should not have been suppressed where police officers conducted warrantless search of defendant’s home after being told by a probation officer that defendant was subject to a warrantless-search condition in his probation order; police officers’ conduct was not reckless and there was no evidence of a systematic error to trigger exclusionary rule).

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