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Warrants – Good Faith

State v. Christopher D. Sloan, 2007 WI App 146

Issue/Holding:

¶26 The trial court here did not find a nexus in the affidavit between the items sought and the house to be searched. Nonetheless, the trial court concluded, in deference to the judge who signed the warrant, that “[t]here’s the good faith exception here. If I were confronted with this affidavit, I think I would have issued the warrant.”

¶27 … “Good faith” is not a doctrine that absolves the neutral and detached judge or magistrate from a careful, critical and independent analysis of the facts presented when exercising the responsibility of determining whether probable cause for a search warrant exists. See Leon, 468 U.S. at 914. Because the trial court did not apply the correct law in deciding the motion to suppress, we have reviewed the record to determine whether the record supports a finding of probable cause to issue the search warrant. See Stan’s Lumber, Inc. v. Fleming, 196 Wis. 2d 554, 573, 538 N.W.2d 849 (Ct. App. 1995).

Might be best not to read this holding too broadly; that is, the holding should be read with the particulars in mind: the court’s ensuing analysis (¶¶31-38) indicates that there was virtually no reason to search the address in the warrant (such that sustaining the warrant, the court goes on to say, “would dilute the Fourth Amendment requirements of reasonableness and probable cause to the strength of mist or vapor”). Thus, on the particular facts, this case fits well within the established exception to the good-faith doctrine, State v. Bill P. Marquardt, 2005 WI 157, ¶¶37-38 (good-faith exception inapplicable when indicia of probable cause so lacking as to render official belief in its existence unreasonable).

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