The Court of Appeals in Andrews v. D.C., decided on August 5, 2019, reversed convictions for possession of an unregistered firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition based on invalidity of underlying search warrant.

Factually, the police officer in support of the issuing warrant had stated that in a reviewing a YouTube video, individuals were depicted displaying handguns that appeared to be functional and operable.

The officer further had stated that location of the video was recognized as a parking lot at the 3500 block of 6th Street, S.E. and moreover, one of the individuals in the video was recognized to be the appellant from “corroborating information from several sworn MPD members as to the identification and residence” of the appellant.

The address listed on the affidavit for warrant and the address listed on the warrant did not exactly match as yet another defect in the process.  The appellant was located at the address and weapon and ammunition seized and charges filed.

Motion to suppress the evidence at the trial level was denied and the appellant argued that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence because the warrant was issued without probable cause and the police’s reliance on the warrant was objectively unreasonable due to irregularities and errors.

The Court of Appeals reiterated that the 4the Amendment to the Constitution requires warrants to be issued on probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized and with specificity and accuracy.

The reviewing court is charged to conscientiously review the sufficiency of affidavits on which warrants are issued and to ensure that the issuing judge had a substantial basis for finding probable cause.

The 4th Amendment requires exclusion of the evidence when the officers conducting the search could not have reasonably relied on the issuing judge’s probable-cause determination, such as when the supporting affidavit is so lacking in indicia of probable cause as to render official belief in its existence entirely unreasonable.

Here the warrant and supporting affidavit in this case were replete with errors as to the address to be searched. Moreover, the underlying supporting evidence to have warrant issued was based on vague and imprecise information not supporting probable cause to issue the warrant in the first instance.

The warrant also did not provide a sufficient basis to search appellant’s address. Although the target of the police’s investigation was the appellant, there was no reliable evidence cited as to how the appellant was connected to the address searched or even how the identity of the individual was revealed.

A facial recognition software search and match would have been most likely sufficient to establish validity and substantiation that the affidavit required.  Here, there was no explanation of what the multiple databases and the corroborating information were.

Moreover, the warrant authorized a search of appellant’s address at 3518 6th Street, but the affidavit listed specifically 3815 6th Street.

Overall, the affidavit and the issued warrant was so lacking in indicia of probable cause and reliability as to render the officers both belief and executing the warrant as entirely unreasonable and in violation of the 4th Amendment.

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Categories: Criminal Defense.