Saturday, May 4, 2013
Sixth Circuit Discusses Validity Of Search Warrant That Lacked An Address
This case began in 2008 when the Cincinnati Police were tipped off that a man named Kenneth Rose had sexually abused three minors. The police met with all three children who told authorities about being raped and then viewing pornography in Rose’s bedroom on a laptop computer. Based on the information gathered in the interviews, the police were able to obtain a warrant for Rose’s computers located in his home.
The police executed the search warrant and seized Rose’s computer which revealed many images of child pornography including several that depicted Rose engaged in sexual contact with male minors. Rose was subsequently indicted on one count of possession of child pornography and five counts of production of child pornography. Rose ended up pleading guilty to three counts of production of child porn and was sentenced to fifty-one years in prison.
Rose then appealed his sentence, claiming that the district court made a mistake in not suppressing the evidence collected in the search, saying that the affidavit filed by the officer never listed the address of Rose’s home and thus failed to establish a link between the location of the search and the evidence sought.
The Sixth Circuit stated that for there to be probable cause justifying a search warrant, the judge must believe there is a substantial basis for thinking that evidence of a crime will be found on the premises. In this case, the affidavit explained that the name “Rose” was written over the doorbell, but did not provide a definitive link between the property and Rose. The affidavits from the victims explained that criminal activity took place in Rose’s bedroom, but never provided a specific address. The Court said that given this, there was no way to read the affidavit to conclude that the judge had the requisite basis for thinking evidence of a crime would be found at the address that was searched. The Sixth Circuit found that the affidavit did not provide probable cause to search the house.
The Sixth Circuit wrote that while the affidavits show a link between criminal activity and Rose’s bedroom, no thread was ever drawn by the victims or the police to link Rose to the house that was ultimately searched. Had the police included an address in the warrant, showing that an investigation had discovered that Rose resided at the location, that alone would have been sufficient.
Despite this flaw in the affidavit, the Sixth Circuit determined that the evidence collected should be admitted at court because of the good faith exception which provides for an exception to the exclusionary rule in cases where an officer conducts a search in good faith, relying on what he or she believes is a valid warrant. The Court described the error about the address as being akin to a clerical mistake and that such a small omission did not qualify the warrant as bare bones, and thus a bad faith search. Finally, because there was no indication of police misconduct, only police sloppiness, the good faith exception should apply to he search, allowing the child pornography to be admitted into evidence.
To read the full opinion, click here.