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Indiana Supreme Court: Court Applies Good-Faith Exception To Warrant Requirement
Posted in Litigation

In Jackson v. State, a unanimous Indiana Supreme Court held that a search warrant issued by the Madison Superior Court for Jackson’s home was valid under the good faith exemption to the warrant requirement. 

In August 2006, Detective Blackwell sought a warrant to search a home allegedly owned by George Jackson.  At the suppression hearing, Blackwell testified that he and the Drug Task Force became involved in the Jackson case after several public complaints about heavy traffic outside Jackson’s home.  Blackwell also testified that a confidential informant, who had made several buys for the Drug Task Force, advised him that Jackson was selling drugs out of his home.  At the time of the hearing, no charges had been filed based on information from the informant.  Nevertheless, the trial judge found probable cause and issued the search warrant.  Officers conducting the search of Jackson’s home recovered, among other things, a handgun.

Jackson was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon.  At trial, he objected to the introduction of evidence seized from his house during the search.  The trial court denied his objection and Jackson was found guilty as charged.  A divided Indiana Court of Appeals reversed Jackson’s conviction holding that “the search warrant was invalid under Indiana Code § 35-33-5-2, and the evidence seized during the search was not otherwise admissible under the good faith exception to the warrant requirement.”

The Indiana Supreme Court chose to focus on whether the evidence seized during the search was admissible under the good faith exception set forth in United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897 (1984).  In Leon, the Court held that “the exclusionary rule does not require the suppression of evidence obtained in reliance on a defective search warrant if the police relied on the warrant in objective good faith.”  The Court cautioned, however, “that the good faith exception is not available in some situations, including where [1] the magistrate is ‘misled by information in an affidavit that the affiant knew was false or would have known was false expect for his reckless disregard of the truth,’ or [2]  the warrant was based on an affidavit ‘so lacking in indicia of probable cause as to render official belief in its existence entirely unreasonable.’” 

In Jackson’s case, the issue was only whether the second exception applied.  The Indiana Supreme Court, while acknowledging that “Blackwell’s testimony is abbreviated, and public complaints have their limitations,” ultimately decided that the issue was not whether probable cause existed to execute a search warrant, but rather, “whether when viewed from a totality of the circumstances there was enough evidence before the issuing court that would allow the court to make that call.”  Finding that the evidence in this case met that standard, the Indiana Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment.



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