Bad Warrant, Good Faith

 In United States v. Helton, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of a motion to suppress where the search warrant affidavit lacked probable cause but where the Court held the Leon good faith exception applied. Of note in this drug trafficking case, law enforcement built a short, two-paragraph affidavit in support of a search warrant on a "reliable source" saying he was at the house and saw another person purchase drugs from the defendant, as well as seeing the defendant in his doorway with a baggie that "looked like it contained residue" and some small bills of currency.

The Sixth Circuit conducts a robust analysis on the failings of the affidavit as a foundation for probable cause, including that no information is given about the reliability of the source of the tip, and that the alleged residue and stack of small bills hardly amount to evidence of much. It's a good source for black letter law on the probable cause warrant evaluation.

However, the Circuit ultimately affirmed the denial of suppression, holding that the search was saved by Leon and its good faith exception. Despite appellant's argument that the affidavit was bare bones, the Sixth Circuit noted its application of the "minimally sufficient nexus" standard. Specifically, it reasoned that because the tip was premised on underlying factual information suggestive of drug trafficking and a connection to the Mr. Helton's home, the totality of the circumstances provided some modicum of evidence that drug trafficking was occurring there - triggering the good faith exception.

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