N.D.Iowa: Pre-warrant thought process of police relevant to GFE

The good faith exception saved this apparent warrantless search that led to a search warrant. The government gets to explore the officer’s thought process leading to the warrant after an apparent warrantless search led to discovery of a bullet hole in a wall overlooked during the prior entries. (Compare here from same court.) Even assuming a prior Fourth Amendment violation, this was all in good faith. Nothing in Leon prevents the use of good faith here. United States v. Martinez-Rubio, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 206213 (N.D. Iowa Nov. 27, 2019), adopting 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 206653 (N.D. Iowa Oct. 17, 2019):

None of the four situations identified above precluding application of the good faith exception apply here. Martinez-Rubio does not argue that Denney made any misleading statements in his affidavit or that the magistrate wholly abandoned his judicial role. Neither was the warrant application so lacking in indicia of probable cause to render belief in its existence entirely unreasonable or so facially deficient that no police officer could reasonably presume the warrant was valid. I also agree with Judge Mahoney that the record does not establish that the prewarrant conduct was “clearly illegal,” only that it is presumptively illegal.

Judge Mahoney found that the additional information known to detectives but not included in the application is what saves the search under the good faith exception. The issue raised by Martinez-Rubio is whether the additional information known to detectives but not included in the search warrant affidavit had to be known prior to the search warrant being signed by the judge or prior to the execution of the search warrant. The evidence is not clear regarding the timing of Griffin’s description of an “older Hispanic male” to Denney, Denney and Thompson’s communications connecting Martinez-Rubio to the upstairs apartment and the procurement of the signed search warrant.

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Given that the case law allows for both situations, I find that the additional information known to law enforcement officers had to have been known, at the latest, at the time the search warrant was executed. See Leon, 468 U.S. at 923, n.24 (noting it is necessary to consider the objective reasonableness of not only the officer who obtained the warrant or provided information for the warrant, but also the officers who eventually executed the warrant). While there may be situations in which officers had additional information at the time the search warrant was signed, but did not include it, it also makes sense to apply this exception to additional information that became known to officers prior to executing the signed search warrant. The purpose of the bullet hole information in the warrant was to connect the shooting to the residence. The information from Griffin describing the person whom Cheron was going to see accomplishes the same purpose via Thompson’s knowledge. While officers knew this information at the time they executed the search warrant, the information did not make its way into the search warrant application. I find that the Leon good faith exception applies under the totality of the circumstances. The evidence from Griffin describing the person Cheron was going to see supports the probable cause determination and the officers’ reasonable belief that the search warrant was supported by probable cause. Martinez-Rubio’s objection is overruled.

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