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Good-faith exception not applicable

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An Indiana trial court erred when it denied a defendant's motion to suppress evidence because the good-faith exception doesn't apply in this case, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded today.

In Brea Rice v. State of Indiana, No. 55A04-0902-CR-99, Brea Rice argued the drugs found in her purse after she was arrested on a warrant for receiving stolen property shouldn't be allowed into evidence because the search that led to the warrant wasn't supported by probable cause.

Mooresville Police officers Yarnell and Harris executed a search warrant of the home Rice rented and lived in with Brian Nysewander to find stolen property allegedly stored there. The search didn't turn up any of the missing property, but officers photographed a motorcycle helmet in the garage before leaving. That helmet turned out to be reported stolen, so police filed an affidavit of probable cause to arrest Rice and Nysewander.

Officer Whitley saw Rice at her back door as he drove by and stopped to arrest her because he knew she had a warrant. A search of her purse at the police department turned up two marijuana joints and a small amount of methamphetamine.

Rice was charged with possession of methamphetamine and marijuana. The receiving stolen property charge was later dismissed without prejudice, and Rice filed an interlocutory appeal after the trial court denied her motion to suppress the drug evidence.

The trial court acknowledged the arrest warrant shouldn't haven't been issued but found the police conduct could fall under the good-faith exception. There's no question Whitely acted in good faith in serving the arrest warrant; however, the actions of the officers who originate warrants must also be considered, wrote Judge Margret Robb.

Nothing in the record suggests the affidavit was deliberately misleading or false, but it did fail to show any connection between Rice and the crime of which she was accused, the judge continued.

"If we were to apply the good faith exception in this case and hold it was objectively reasonable for Officer Whitley to rely on a warrant supported by an affidavit wholly lacking probable cause, officers would have no incentive to discover and attest to facts amounting to probable cause in future affidavits, the defendant's right to seek review of the probable cause determination would be empty, and the exclusionary rule would have no meaning," she wrote.

The purpose of the exclusionary rule is to deter law enforcement from committing constitutional violations, and evidence should only be suppressed if it can be said the officer had knowledge or may properly be charged with the knowledge the search was unconstitutional. Yarnell may be charged with knowledge that an arrest warrant issued on the basis of his affidavit was unconstitutional, and as in Hensley v. State, 778 N.E.2d 484, 489 (Ind. Ct. App. 2002), exclusion can therefore have a deterrent effect by ensuring future affidavits contain sufficient information for a judicial officer to determine probable cause, wrote Judge Robb.

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