S.D.W.Va.: Uncorroborated CI, criminal history, and inconclusive trash pull didn’t support SW for house; no GFE

“Pending before the court is Defendant’s motion to suppress 48 pounds of methamphetamine, $41,000 in cash, and all other evidence seized during a search of his residence by the Metropolitan Drug Enforcement Network Team (‘MDENT’). I find that neither the warrant application nor the warrant itself contain statements of apparent facts from which a reasonable judicial officer or a reasonable police officer could find probable cause. For the reasons discussed below, Defendant’s Motion is GRANTED.” United States v. Nelson, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 77079 (S.D. W.Va. Apr. 22, 2021). Even the trash pull was insubstantial evidence of drug dealing:

The principal question here is whether the warrant application states apparent facts sufficient to support the magistrate’s conclusion that probable cause existed. Gates, 462 U.S. at 238-39. The warrant application presents only three facts: (1) the unsourced and undescribed information “received” by Detective Garbin; (2) Defendant’s criminal history; and (3) the evidence discovered in the trash pull investigation. However, the first two of these three facts are so unsubstantiated or remote that I am left with only one fact to support a sweeping search of an entire home.

It was so insubstantial that even the good faith exception didn’t apply:

Also, like in Lyles, this warrant was unreasonably broad—bordering on a general warrant—to investigate possession of marijuana. It authorized the search of electronic devices and financial records that have no connection to the offense of marijuana possession.

The Fourth Circuit’s conclusion in Lyles applies as well here as it did there.

Leon‘s standard is ultimately an “objective” one. And objectively speaking, what transpired here is not acceptable. What we have before us is a flimsy trash pull that produced scant evidence of a marginal offense but that nonetheless served to justify the indiscriminate rummaging through a household. Law enforcement can do better.

Lyles, 910 F.3d at 797 (internal citation omitted). Defendant’s Motion to Suppress is GRANTED. The court DIRECTS the Clerk to send a copy of this Order to the defendant and counsel, the United States Attorney, the United States Probation Office, and the United States Marshal. The court further DIRECTS the Clerk to post a copy of this published opinion on the court’s website, www.wvsd.uscourts.gov.

This entry was posted in Good faith exception, Informant hearsay, Probable cause. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.