Saturday, May 21, 2016

Search Warrants Target Places, Not People

In United States v. Church, the Defendant quickly learned that some meals can wait.  David Church, Jr. was bringing home fast food when detectives appeared at his door looking to serve him with a warrant for violating his probation.  The detectives then placed Church under arrest.  At that time, Church asked the officers if he could go inside his home to finish his dinner.  The detectives agreed and Church let them follow him inside.  When they entered, the detectives smelled marijuana.  Recognizing his situation, Church admitted to smoking marijuana and even showed the officers a blunt.  Church then called his girlfriend.  However, his girlfriend did not help the situation when she admitted Church regularly smoked marijuana at the home.
One of the arresting officers left to prepare a search warrant affidavit while Church stayed at his home with another agent and his girlfriend (presumably, he finished his dinner).  In addition to recounting the detective’s conversations with Church and his girlfriend, the search warrant affidavit asserted there was probable cause to believe Church committed a plethora of crimes: RICO, money laundering, and drug trafficking.  The affidavit requested a warrant to search Church’s house for evidence of drugs and drug paraphernalia.  The judge subsequently issued a search warrant that, upon execution, revealed evidence of drug trafficking, guns and ammunition.
Church plead guilty to drug possession with intent to distribute and being a felon in possession of a firearm after the district court denied his motion to suppress the evidence obtained pursuant to the search warrant.  On appeal, Church argued the search warrant affidavit was narrower, i.e. showing probable cause for evidence of simple drug possession, than the search warrant, which authorized detectives to search for evidence for drug possession with intent to distribute.

The Sixth Circuit disagreed and affirmed his conviction.  Holding that “[s]earch warrants are not directed at persons; they authorize the search of ‘places’ and the seizure of ‘things,’” the Court concluded the affidavit needed to only show probable cause to search for marijuana in Church’s house, regardless of what he meant to do with it.  Church and his girlfriend had given the detectives more than enough cause to search his house for marijuana.

1 comment:

George Marie said...

Knock and talk warrants target places. I'm not so sure that they don't target people either, such as people on probation.