Fourth Amendment/Search Warrants – Warrant obtained after an illegal entry was an independent legal source for the drug evidence where the warrant application was supported by probable cause without the tainted information, and the Government’s decision to seek the warrant was not motivated by the illegal entry, despite inconsistent testimony from the agent at the suppression hearing and the agents’ decision to confirm the presence of methamphetamine before seeking a warrant.
After being convicted of possession with intent to distribute meth, Paul Huskisson appealed the district court’s denial of his motion suppress evidence seized after law enforcement raided his house without a warrant and found drugs in his kitchen. The Government conceded that this first entry was unlawful, but that a subsequently issued search warrant rendered the drug evidence admissible.
Prior to the illegal raid, law enforcement had arrested another individual on drug charges and used him as an informant to get to other drug dealers. The informant led them to Huskisson, who the DEA was not familiar with before, telling officers that he had purchased multiple pounds meth from Huskisson at his house or car lot over a five month period and that Huskisson received shipments of meth on a routine basis. The informant made a recorded phone call to Huskisson to set up a transaction at Huskisson’s house the next day.
Law enforcement deliberately chose not to apply for a warrant at that point, believing they needed to corroborate the presence of meth at the residence before seeking a warrant. Instead, the officers surveilled the house, and after seeing other individuals arrive at the house with what they believed to be meth, the officers entered the home and secured the scene, where they saw the meth in plain sight. The agents applied for a warrant that night, detailing the informant’s history of drug deals with Huskisson, their communications, the controlled transaction, and a statement that the officers observed the meth during their entry of the house. The warrant was granted.
On appeal, the Court held that the exclusionary rule did not apply under the independent source doctrine. Here, the warrant obtained after the illegal entry was an independent legal source for the drug evidence. And even though the warrant was tainted by the illegal entry, the Court held that it likely did not affect the magistrate judge’s decision since there was probable cause without the tainted information. The Court cited the extensive information developed throught he informant and the recorded calls.
The Court also held that the Government’s decision to seek the warrant was not motivated by the illegal entry, despite inconsistent testimony from the agent at the suppression hearing and the agents’ decision to confirm the presence of methamphetamine before seeking a warrant. At the hearing, the agent testified first that the agents planned to get a warrant regardless of finding drugs, but then testified that the agents were only going to apply for a warrant if they found drugs in the house. The district court credited the first statement in denying suppression.
On appeal, the Court deferred to the district court’s factual finding, though the Court noted that, had the district court accepted the agent’s other statement, the warrant would not have survived the taint of the illegal entry.
Appeal from the Southern District of Indiana
Opinion by Brennan, joined by Wood and St. Eve