CA6: A minimal showing of nexus is enough for GFE even where PC is lacking

The affidavit failed to show probable cause. There was a minimal showing of nexus. That’s enough here for the good faith exception. United States v. Helton, 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 13943 (6th Cir. May 24, 2022):

We have recognized that if there is a minimally sufficient nexus between the place to be searched and evidence sought, the good faith exception may apply. Id. at 496-97. The minimally sufficient nexus standard is a “less demanding showing than the ‘substantial basis’ threshold required to prove the existence of probable cause.” United States v. Fitzgerald, 754 F. App’x 351, 362 (6th Cir. 2018) (quoting Frazier, 423 F.3d at 536). To avoid the “bare bones” label, the affidavit must contain “more than ‘suspicions, or conclusions”; it must provide “some underlying factual circumstances regarding veracity, reliability, and basis of knowledge.” United States v. Christian, 925 F.3d 305, 312 (6th Cir. 2019) (en banc) (quoting United States v. Washington, 380 F.3d 236, 241 n.4 (6th Cir. 2004)); United States v. Baker, 976 F.3d 636, 647 (6th Cir. 2020), cert. denied, 141 S. Ct. 1750, 209 L. Ed. 2d 513, (2021). The affidavit “must be so lacking in indicia of probable cause that, despite a judicial officer having issued a warrant, no reasonable officer would rely on it.” White, 874 F.3d at 497.

In determining what is necessary to show a minimally sufficient nexus between the place to be searched and evidence sought, we have followed the Supreme Court’s rejection of subjectivity. Laughton, 409 F.3d at 752. In Laughton, we held that “the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule does not permit consideration of information known to a police officer, but not included in the affidavit, in determining whether an objectively reasonable officer would have relied on the warrant.” Id. We therefore undertake the good faith analysis based on what was contained in the search warrant affidavit.

The affidavit at its most basic level says that law enforcement received complaints that Helton was selling methamphetamine from his residence; a source saw someone purchase methamphetamine at Helton’s residence; and the deputies saw Helton with a “clear baggie” that had some type of “residue,” and small bills. The anonymous complaints provide minimal information, but the information is related to the trafficking of drugs. Though the reliability of the source’s tip is lacking in several respects, it provides underlying factual circumstances regarding the basis of the informant’s knowledge. That tip provides some support for a connection between drug dealing and Helton’s home because, while there is no information about the reliability of the source other than the bald reference by the affiant officer to a “reliable source,” the source did claim to personally observe a drug deal and connects that drug deal with Helton’s residence. See Dyer, 580 F.3d at 391. The presence of a clear baggie with some sort of residue and the opinion of the officer also supply a minor inference of support. Under the good faith standard, the totality of the information in the affidavit provides “some modicum of evidence” that drug dealing was occurring at Helton’s home. White, 874 F.3d at 497.

Because we cannot say that the affidavit was “so lacking in indicia of probable cause that no reasonable officer would rely on the warrant,” the good faith exception applies to the search warrant for Helton’s home. Id. at 496. Thus, the exclusionary rule does not apply to the evidence obtained from Helton’s home and the search warrant for Patsy Hopkins’ residence is not fruit of the poisonous tree.

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