On June 11, 2012, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded a conviction involving a firearm found at the home of a prohibited processor (felon). In order for the search to be constitutional under the Fourth Amendment “probable cause” for the search warrant is required. One exception to this would be under an “exclusionary rule” extension known as the “attenuated exception.” This exception could have only applied if the connection between the unlawful search and the conviction were weak. But the defendants argued on appeal that the connection between the discovery of the weapon through unconstitutional search and the conviction was too heavily weighted.
The lower district court held, that although there was lack of probable cause, a “good faith” exception was made to all the police to proceed with the unlawful search under the “good faith reliance doctrine” (United States v. Leon).
However, the 9th Circuit Court’s opinion reversing the decision felt that the good faith exception that resulted in the search warrant in absence of probable cause failed to meet “fair probability” or even a “as colorable argument” for probable cause that a firearm associated with the homicide at issue, would be found at the search warrant location. Therefore, it was determined that the officers’ warrant was unlawful, and the exception to the attenuated doctrine did not apply, and the evidence was obtained illegally. As a result, the firearm and ammunition evidence was suppressed, and all evidence gained following the unlawful search. As a result, the 9th Circuit Court reversed and remanded the conviction for further proceedings.
Exclusionary Rule: Exception Doctrines for Admittance of Criminal Evidence
The Exclusionary Rule or Doctrine disallows prosecution to admit evidence gained unlawfully in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution. However, the Supreme Court has recognized some exceptions to this rule in favor of police, prosecution, by the State or Government against a defendant. This Exclusionary Rule has 4 exceptions, that would allow evidence to be admitted in court, that otherwise would not have been allowed because it was gathered unlawfully by police. The exceptions include the following circumstances:
• “Attenuation exception”: This allows for evidence to be admitted if the connection between the unlawful search and discovery of the evidence v. the conviction is sufficiently weak;
• Good-faith Doctrine: This exemption allows evidence, obtained unlawfully to be admitted. It applies when police acted in “good faith” by relying on a search warrant, that a “reasonable person” would have considered lawful; but later found unconstitutional.
• The criminal evidence was found as a result of an independent search, not the offense for which the defendant was convicted;
• The evidence would have been found despite the unlawful search