May 21, 2019

Colorado Supreme Court: Exclusionary Rule Correctly Applied to Suppress Results of Illegal Collection of Juvenile’s DNA

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Casillas v. People on Monday, September 24, 2018.

Evidence—Searches and Seizures—Exclusionary Rule.

In this criminal appeal, the supreme court reviewed whether the exclusionary rule required the suppression of evidence derived from a juvenile probation officer’s unauthorized collection of DNA from a juvenile in violation of C.R.S. § 19-2-925.6 and the Fourth Amendment. The court held that (1) juvenile probation officers are properly considered adjuncts to law enforcement; (2) the officer’s collection of the juvenile’s DNA for uploading to CODIS served an inherent law enforcement function; (3) nothing in the record suggests the officer conducted the buccal swab search in reliance on misinformation provided by a third party; and (4) the unlawful search here was not based on a reasonable misinterpretation of the law. Because suppression would have a deterrent effect by removing incentives to collect DNA from ineligible juvenile offenders, the court held that suppression was warranted. Accordingly, the court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment and remanded the case with instructions to vacate petitioner’s conviction.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Warrant Establishes Long String of Criminal History Despite Lack of Specific Dates

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Cooper on Monday, November 21, 2016.

In September 2015, officers requested and obtained a search warrant for Lonnie Cooper’s residence and vehicles based for illegal drugs. The affidavit supporting the warrant contained information from a confidential informant about the drug activity, but did not contain any specific dates when the activity occurred. An Alamosa County magistrate signed the warrant the day it was presented, and police searched Cooper’s home, finding controlled substances, drug paraphernalia, and weapons. Cooper was charged with multiple counts.

Cooper moved to suppress the results of the search warrant, arguing that the supporting affidavit was so lacking in indicia of probable cause that no reasonable officer could, in good faith, rely on it. The trial court granted the motion. The trial court was particularly concerned about the affidavit’s “staleness,” or the lack of exact dates. The State filed an interlocutory appeal, and the Colorado Supreme Court reversed the suppression order.

The State argued that even if the warrant was stale and issued in error, the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule should apply. The supreme court agreed. The court focused on the “bare bones” situation where the good faith exception would not apply, namely “where the warrant is based on an affidavit so lacking in indicia of probable cause as to render official belief in its existence entirely unreasonable.” Because in this case there was considerable evidence of ongoing drug trafficking activity, an officer could have a reasonable, good faith belief that the warrant was proper.

The Colorado Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s suppression order. Justice Hood concurred, and Justice Marquez joined in the concurrence.

Tenth Circuit: Exclusionary Rule Applies to Search when Warrant Issued Illegally

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in United States v. Krueger on Tuesday, November 10, 2015.

In 2013, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Agent Rick Moore learned that child pornography was being distributed over the internet by Zachary Krueger, a Kansas resident. He obtained a warrant from a U.S. District Court magistrate for the District of Kansas to search Krueger’s home for items such as computers and cell phones that may be used to display child pornography. When Agent Moore attempted to execute the warrant, Krueger’s roommate told him that Krueger was in Oklahoma and had taken his computer and cell phone with him. Agent Moore contacted another HSI agent in Oklahoma, who located Krueger. Agent Moore then went to a different Kansas magistrate and obtained a warrant to search the residence in Oklahoma, as well as Krueger’s vehicle, which was parked outside the Oklahoma residence. Agent Moore transmitted the second warrant (Warrant 2) to the Oklahoma agent immediately after it was issued, and a team of agents went to the Oklahoma residence to execute the warrant.

Shortly after entering the residence, one of the agents noticed that Warrant 2 had been issued by a magistrate in Kansas, rather than in the Western District of Oklahoma, and asked another agent if that was acceptable. After speaking with Agent Moore and an AUSA in Kansas, the agents decided to refrain from searching the computer until they had consent. A few weeks later, a Kansas police officer visited Krueger and obtained his written consent to search the computer. As a result, Krueger was charged with distribution of child pornography.

Krueger then filed a pretrial motion to suppress the evidence obtained in the search in Oklahoma as well as the statements he made to law enforcement. Krueger argued suppression was necessary because Warrant 2 violated Fed. R. Crim. P. 41, which only allows magistrate judges to issue warrants to persons and property located within their districts. Krueger argued Warrant 2 was illegal from the outset, necessitating suppression because the search was warrantless and unconstitutional. Krueger also argued that even if Warrant 2 was not void at the outset, he was prejudiced by the Rule 41 violation in the sense that he would not have cooperated with law enforcement had he known that the warrant was illegal. The district court granted Krueger’s suppression motion after a hearing. The government appealed.

On appeal, the government conceded that Warrant 2 was invalid because the magistrate judge in Kansas had no authority to issue a warrant concerning property in Oklahoma. However, the government urged the Tenth Circuit to reverse the suppression order, arguing the district court applied the wrong legal standard in determining Krueger had suffered prejudice as a result of the Rule 41 violation. The Tenth Circuit disagreed. The Tenth Circuit declined to consider an issue of first impression in the circuit—whether an out-of-district warrant issued by a magistrate who lacks authority rises to the level of a Fourth Amendment violation—because the warrant’s constitutionality would not affect the outcome of the appeal. The Tenth Circuit noted that the government abandoned all of its arguments except that Krueger failed to establish prejudice, and found that Krueger did indeed establish prejudice. Because suppression is the appropriate remedy for purposes of the exclusionary rule seeking to deter law enforcement from obtaining illegal warrants, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court.