Is a warrant to search premises sufficient if it does not link the address to be searched with the crime or suspect?
No. In order to establish probable cause, an affidavit for a search warrant should explicitly link the suspect or crime with the address.
Officers received information that Kenneth Rose sexually abused minors and had shown them pornographic images on the computer in his bedroom. The officers obtained a warrant listing Rose as the suspect, and indicating that the name “Rose” appeared above apartment #1. And it listed 709 Elberon Ave. as the address to be searched. However, the warrant did not say that Rose lived at 709 Elberon Ave., or that any criminal conduct occurred at that address. The court determined that because the warrant did not explicitly link Rose or the crime with 709 Elberon Ave., there was no probable cause to search 709 Elberon Ave.
The court ultimately denied Rose’s request to suppress the evidence on the good-faith exception. The good-faith exception allows an officer to rely on a search warrant issued by a neutral judicial officer as long as the warrant is not patently illegal. The court found that the good-faith exception applied because, “rather than fears of police misconduct, this case merely raises the concerns about sloppiness in drafting affidavits within” the police department.
Why this case is important:
Although the good-faith exception saved this case, you never want to rely on a court ruling that you acted in good faith. Instead, you need to be careful and conscientious about the information you provide when you get a warrant. When you are looking to search a home, it is especially important that you directly link the home with the crime or the suspect.
Keep in mind:
It’s easy to assume links based on information you know. The court recognized that the officer in this case probably quickly discovered Rose’s address during the course of the investigation. But courts are confined to look only at the information contained in the affidavit and the warrant. Here, although it seemed obvious that Rose probably
lived at 709 Elberon Ave., there was no actual information that he did.
Visit the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals
website to view the entire opinion.