The good faith exception: United States v. Leon decided 40 years ago today

United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 104 S. Ct. 3405, 82 L. Ed. 2d 677 (July 5, 1984).

It made my job easier. It’s far easier to tell whether an affidavit for search warrant will survive a motion to suppress.

1) This literally happened about a year ago in the Eastern District of Arkansas, and I hate to admit it: “Your honor, we’re specifically waiving any potential Fourth Amendment claim.” “I suppose that took a while?” “Actually less than a minute. I’ve been doing this a while.”

2) Another lawyer called about a geofence warrant in a homicide case, taking about ten minutes to give the background, and he says: “I see these issues: X, Y, and Z.” I say: “You can’t win on the good faith exception. They did all they could to comply with the Fourth Amendment, and the court will never even have to get to the merits.”

3) As a USMJ in the W.D.Ark. summed it up in a case, and I’m paraphrasing: “I’ve analyzed the probable cause showing and it’s a close question. I could go either way. And, if I can’t tell, the police sure couldn’t, so that’s enough for good faith.”

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