7th Circuit: Evidence found during unlawful drug raid still admissible

Convictions were affirmed for a man whose home was illegally searched by the Drug Enforcement Administration, which uncovered 10 pounds of methamphetamine inside. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found that although the DEA should have obtained a search warrant first, the evidence was still admissible.

After consulting with an informant who tipped them off to a suspected drug dealer, Indianapolis DEA agents made plans to arrest Paul Huskisson through a fake drug transaction. Once the informant gave the signal, the DEA entry team entered Huskisson’s home without a warrant. There, agents discovered in plain sight 10 plastic-wrapped packages of a substance that field-tested positive for meth.

Huskisson, who did not consent to search of the home, was arrested and taken into custody. An application for a search warrant of his home was filed later that night, detailing the informant’s former drug deals with Huskisson, numerous phone calls between them that DEA agents listened to, and a description of what transpired during the earlier raid.

Huskisson unsuccessfully moved to suppress the evidence after he was indicted for possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of meth. On appeal, the government argued that the warrant obtained after the illegal entry was an independent legal source of the meth evidence, thus making the independent source doctrine applicable.

However, Huskisson disagreed, arguing that the warrant application referenced the illegally obtained evidence, and therefore could not be a legal source.

The 7th Circuit first found that the magistrate judge would have issued the search warrant even without the discussion of the field-tested meth found in Huskisson’s home. The panel noted that even if he had disputed that the warrant application contained enough information to establish probable cause, it already held plenty of untainted evidence to do so.

Additionally, the panel affirmed the district court’s determination that an errant statement made by a detective regarding the search warrant application did not outweigh other evidence of the government’s plan to request a search warrant, regardless off what was discovered.

“This was not a ‘one-off,’ ill-considered decision by the district court. Rather, before, during, and after the jury trial, the court closely tracked the issue with its superior vantage point hearing and seeing the witnesses and presiding over the presentation of all the evidence,” Circuit Judge Michael Brennan wrote for the panel. “This decision was well-reasoned and well-supported, so we do not reverse it.”

Despite its affirmation of Huskisson’s convictions, the panel did not overlook the DEA entry team’s error in unlawfully entering Huskisson’s home.

“We do not condone this illegal behavior by law enforcement; the better practice is to obtain a warrant before entering a home,” the panel continued. “Ordinarily, the evidence found here would be excluded. But because the government had so much other evidence of probable cause, and had already planned to apply for a warrant before the illegal entry, the evidence is admissible.

“Though the government should not profit from its bad behavior, neither should it be placed in a worse position than it would otherwise have occupied,” the panel concluded.

The case is USA v. Paul Huskisson, 18-1335.

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