United States v. Tyslen Baker (6th Cir. September 2020)

The Federal Docket

October 26, 2020

Fourth Amendment/Arrest Warrants – The good faith exception under Leon applies to arrest warrants as well as search warrants.

Tyslen J. Baker was convicted and sentenced to 240 months imprisonment for drug offenses under 21 U.S.C. § 841 and being a felon in possession of a firearm under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).  The case began with local law enforcement officers executing an outstanding arrest warrant for Baker at his “hybrid” residence and place of business, where police also discovered jars of marijuana, a rifle in plain sight, and crack cocaine in Baker’s pocket. Baker moved to suppress all evidence seized arguing that the affidavit for the arrest warrant, which only stated that stolen property was located on sale at Baker’s pawnshop, failed to establish probable cause that he committed a crime.

The district court denied the motion, holding that there was probable cause and even without probable cause, the good faith exception under Leon applied and precluded suppression. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit reviewed whether the Leon/Good Faith framework applies to arrest warrants as well as search warrants, concluding that it does. The Court cited Supreme Court cases noting that the exclusionary rule applies only to deliberate police misconduct and offering examples of officers relying in good faith on outstanding arrest warrants that turn out to be wrong due to a negligent bookkeeping errors.  The Court also determined that the affidavit contained sufficient indicia of probable cause to support the arrest based on Baker’s possession of stolen property and statements from a confidential informant.  The Court affirmed the district court’s denial to suppress evidence.

Judge Donald dissented, holding the arrest warrant failed to provide a sufficient nexus between possession of stolen property and Baker’s alleged offense particularly given the lack of temporal proximity.

The Court also considered questions about execution of the arrest warrant.  See full opinion for more details.

Appeal from the Western District of Kentucky at Owensboro

Opinion by Murphy, joined by Suhrheinrich.

 Dissent by Donald.

Click here to read the opinion.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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