CA4: Unsigned SW was subject to GFE where it was readily apparent it was read and acted on

A state unsigned warrant was subject to the good faith exception where the issuing magistrate did everything but sign. The magistrate signed the application on the back of the state-mandated form and initialed the warrant. The court doesn’t go so far as to approve all unsigned warrants, and it notes other unsigned warrants were approved in United States v. Lyons, 740 F.3d 702, 724-25 (1st Cir. 2014), and United States v. Cruz, 774 F.3d 1278, 1286 (10th Cir. 2014). United States v. Warren, 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 561 (4th Cir. Jan. 7, 2022):

Here, Judge Hill signed the back page of the warrant form (the application) and eight pages of the officer’s affidavit, as well as editing and initialing part of the warrant. The officer watched the judge review the probable cause affidavit, sign pages, and edit the warrant. This is therefore not a case in which “the warrant was so facially deficient, by failing to particularize the place to be searched or the things to be seized, that the executing officers cannot presume it to be valid.” United States v. Hyppolite, 65 F.3d 1151, 1156 (4th Cir. 1995) (citing Leon, 468 U.S. at 923). Here, the facts do not point to police misconduct-the police had clear probable cause, presented the facts to the judge, and reasonably relied on a mostly signed warrant packet. In such circumstances, it was reasonable for the officer to believe the warrant and the subsequent search were valid. See, e.g., United States v. Kelley, 140 F.3d 596, 601-03 (5th Cir. 1998).

Today’s holding only applies to the instant facts-we decline to answer the broader question of whether an unsigned warrant is always constitutional or unconstitutional.

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